Although Benicia residents and downtown visitors have seen the same holiday decorations year over year, it’s always an event when Benicia Public Works employees arrive downtown with those decorations in tow.
Decorating Benicia’s downtown is a sure sign the holiday shopping season has begun, and the decorations also serve as a welcome to those arriving in the downtown area. It takes two or three maintenance workers to install those decorations, said William Tarbox, Public Works director. It also takes two or three days to complete the job, he said.
Besides the employees, they use a pickup truck and a bucket truck, often nicknamed a cherry picker, or a manlift, because those decorations will be lifted high off the ground to be attached to their pole mounts. Although maintenance employees are working in familiar territory, that doesn’t mean they won’t need to take precautions, Tarbox said. “We set out cones and signs, so pedestrians don’t walk below our work area,” he said.
Another item to which the employees must pay attention is weather. “Certain parts of First Street are very windy, so we must be cautious,” Tarbox said. As they go from stopping place to stopping place, employees set out decorations throughout the length of First Street as well as next to the Benicia Public Library on one block of Military East, across from Solano Square.
As they install the holiday décor, employees get a different perspective of the city, Tarbox said. “It’s a nice view,” he added. For some of his employees, it’s a familiar view. “Some long-time employees assigned to the street crew have put up decorations for many years,” he said. “And that’s a satisfying assignment. Employees feel a sense of pride in knowing how much people enjoy the decorations.” Sometimes they hear about that joy firsthand, when passersby call out compliments to the workers on the job.
Tarbox said Benicia has had the same downtown holiday displays for many years, and there’s only one set. “Replacement happens when they are worn out,” he said. “The last time new decorations were purchased, it was many years ago, he said. “We’re due for new ones, but funding is an issue.”
While his workers are putting up the downtown displays, other city employees are busily involved with additional municipal holiday decorating. For instance, the Benicia Council Chambers are decorated each year by the Parks and Community Services Division. A stroll through Benicia City Hall gives viewers a chance to see other departments decorated with personal touches. Most of them boast of displays selected by department employees, some of whom have brought items from home to add to their offices’ festive looks.
After the holidays are over, employees who spent time putting them up are the same people who take the lifting equipment to remove them. “Taking down the decorations after the new year is like putting away the decorations on the tree,” Tarbox said. “Glad it’s over, but also a little disappointed that the holiday season has come to an end.
The décor is removed carefully, said Tarbox. Just as carefully, they’re packed away and taken to the Benicia Clock Tower, where they remain in storage until they’re brought out again. And once more, maintenance employees will head out to hoist the decorations aloft to bring a festive, holiday look to Benicia’s downtown.