WILMINGTON -- It's that time of year again in the Deerfield Valley.
The third annual Bright Lights event started on Nov. 29 and continues through Jan. 5. It highlights the holiday lights and decorations put up all the way from Wardsboro to Readsboro.
"We've got more lights than ever before," said Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold. "It's becoming a true valleywide event."
Although there is no established theme this year, snowmen or snowpeople are being built and put up around the valley. New banners in Wilmington include snowpeople in the design.
Grinold told the Reformer that he believes Bright Lights has grown due to the success of its past. He mentioned the various groups that are supporting it, which include the downtown organization Wilmington Works, the Dover Economic Development Department and more.
"People want to be part of that," Grinold said. "It creates more energy and people want it."
Bright Lights originated in Dover. Then, the event's chairwoman Linda Anelli was given the freedom to run with it. She was a member of the town's Beautification Committee at the time.
"The Dover Selectboard challenged me to take the Bright Lights event post (Tropical Storm) Irene and see if we could expand it to the neighboring towns that had been so badly affected by Irene," said Anelli. "So it grew from one small town to a seven-town event."
Since then, it's quickly becoming a popular event in the region. Anelli hopes it eventually will be among one of southern Vermont's top 10 along with the Blueberry Festival.
The snowpeople tradition began in Dover as well. Jim and Kathy Martin were building an eight-foot tall snowpeople for the town. They have since made the template available to anyone who wants to make their own.
The snowpeople in Dover can be seen along the Valley Trail on Route 100 as well as other various spots around town. In Wilmington, students and artists are creating their own. With assistance from Wilmington Works, 28 snowpeople have been constructed.
"Everyone should keep looking," said Anelli. "There will be more popping up through the valley in the next few weeks."
There is a map that will be printed in the Deerfield Valley News, which will feature all the homes and businesses included in the event. People pick up maps then drive around to look at the creative decorations throughout the holiday season.
"That's just a fun thing to do," Anelli added. "If people don't go to Jacksonville or the center of Readsboro or to some of the homes in East Dover, it's their loss. They're missing some really unbelievable involvement in this event."
She told the Reformer that part of the reason she lobbied for the chamber to get behind Bright Lights last year was because it had outgrown her small committee.
"The model that is evolving for Bright Lights is the Blueberry Festival model, which embraces multi-town events and everyone puts their own perimeters on it. Where it's blue for July for the Blueberry Festival, it's bright for Bright Lights," concluded Anelli. "These events are only successful through the unity of spirit."
Part of this year's Bright Lights is an energy efficient initiative to replace business' and residents' current lightbulbs with LEDs. These bulbs are for replacing a 60 watt incandescent or CFL, which are the most universally used bulbs.
"These LED bulbs last 23 years and have a warm light glow with a total energy cost of $1.45 for the year," said Grinold. "These are super efficient and awesome."
After the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, thousands of LEDs were distributed. Anelli had gotten in contact with the Sylvania Corporation after searching the Internet for companies that may be able to assist with replacing lights taken out by the storm.
"They do a lot of promotions and working with Efficiency Vermont, they were able to fast track that program with LEDs," she said. "They replaced all the flood lights at Memorial Hall."
This year, representatives from the corporation contacted Anelli and asked if towns were interested in a similar program.
"They expanded it this year to include residents as well as the business community," she said. "This is an incredibly generous gift for the valley again. It is a wonderful opportunity to make the valley not only brighter but greener."
The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Sylvania Corporation, CED Twin State Electric and Efficiency Vermont so that residents in towns within the Deerfield Valley can make the switch. After Irene, these companies donated over $50,000 worth of LED bulbs to the cause.
The lightbulbs that will be available from Dec. 9 through Dec. 23 usually cost around $25. The chamber will be selling the LED bulbs for $5.95 plus tax and people can purchase as many as they want.
The program will be available only through the chamber. Applications for purchase can be filled out at the office on Main Street. Purchases can be made using a credit card only.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.