An illuminating tradition

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BRATTLEBORO — Each year, Dick DeGray, 65, has worked through the weather to bring a little holiday cheer to downtown Brattleboro. DeGray strings lights around town mostly by himself now, after the death of his partner, James Banslaben, in October 2016. But DeGray, while putting up traditional lanterns on to light poles on Elliott Street, on Wednesday, said that this is going to be his final year.

"This takes a lot out of you, usually the colder weather, so we are looking at the finish line for me doing the holiday lights," said DeGray.

Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell talked about DeGray's efforts to make the downtown brighter. "We are grateful to Dick for his many years of installing the holiday lights. His and Missy's [Galanes, DeGray's wife] tireless efforts make downtown beautiful and festive all year long."

It takes nearly two weeks to adorn the Creamery Bridge on Western Avenue, to light up Pliny Park, and to turn Main Street of Brattleboro into that picturesque Christmas New England town. "The challenges are always having access to power outlets," said DeGray. "Always hoping that the lights, where you up them up, there isn't vandalism done to the lights."

Using a pole and a ladder, DeGray puts up between 10,000 and 15,000 lights that illuminate the Brattleboro skyline.

"It's enjoyed by the community, they look forward to it, even when I'm doing the flowers in the summer, people are talking about 'I can't wait until the holiday lights go up, the downtown looks so beautiful,'" said DeGray. "You always meet so many nice people."

The money for the lights is provided by the downtown Brattleboro building owners through an assessment that goes to the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance. The tree and the lights on the Creamery Bridge are paid for with donations.

"I always hope that people have an appreciation for their town, a sense of pride, I certainly felt that with the flowers this year, with all the comments and feedback that I got," said DeGray.


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