Looking a Lot Like Christmas

Downtown garlands are a New Ulm tradition

Photos courtesy of New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce The New Ulm Parade of Lights, set for 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 23, always draws a big crowd, even if the weather is very cold.

A yearly tradition since 1933, fresh garland with lighted bells and stars will continue to adorn downtown New Ulm this holiday season.

Due to safety concerns and downtown changes over time, the City of New Ulm, with the Chamber of Commerce acting in a liaison capacity, initiated conversation recently with downtown building owners and the community about the future of garland.

After a public meeting hosted by the Chamber last December, City Manager Brian Gramentz presented the current status of the garland. From the meeting, a Downtown Action Team sub-committee was formed to oversee the project.

Gramentz commented on downtown New Ulm garland project.

“I would like to continue the tradition of installing garland/ decorations on Minnesota Street,” Gramentz said. “That decision rests initially on obtaining the cable anchor property owners authorization. If successful, then on to the task force to finance the structural analysis of each cable anchor point.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch New Ulm Public Utilities Commission lineman Scott Schneider checks a downtown garland guidewire last week. The garlands are usually hung the Monday before Thanksgiving.

“This looks to me as another great example of New Ulm’s many community-minded citizens, businesses, the New Ulm Foundation, retailers, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Economic Development Authority (EDA), and our many New Ulm service organizations and City Council. ‘Stone soup’ at it’s finest” Gramentz added.

Downtown holiday decorations are a collaborative effort of the City, PUC (Public Utility Commission) and the Chamber. The City owns the holiday decorations including the guidewires, bell and star centers.

The City Public Works Department attaches garland to the decorations. The PUC contributes $2,000 annually to buy garland. The Chamber contributes any remaining balance.

The PUC installs and removes guidewires and garland for the City. At their recommendation, all existing guidewires will be replaced this year with new ones that have insulated ends as a safety measure. The PUC will cover the cost of the new wires and installation.

In September, downtown building owners, Gramentz and City Attorney Roger Hippert met to discuss the issue and get feedback. The consensus was building owners want to continue with garlands. Comparing several commercial holiday decoration options, it was determined that new decorations would cost about the same as the building structural inspections for garlands.

Photos courtesy of New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce Downtown Christmas season parades have always drawn huge crowds, including this event in the 1950s.

Due to the short timeframe to complete structural inspections and a $100,000 unbudgeted cost to do it, it was agreed that the garlands would be hung this year as they were in the past. Hippert is drafting a one-year easement agreement. Building owners with attached garland last year will sign the easement, if they choose, allowing the City and PUC to hang garlands this year.

Early next year, a long-term easement, structural inspections and cost and potential additional buildings for garland will be revisited.

Photos courtesy of New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce Even at dusk, garland with lights over Minnesota Street are a treasure.

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