150 Boise icons: Boise Christmas lights

awebb@idahostatesman.comJune 28, 2013 

On what is likely to be one of the hottest days of the year, we bring you this chilly, out-of-season icon. Reader Erik Nystrom nominated the citywide Yuletide display.

"It is so very cool and few cities 'do it up' like Boise," Nystrom said.

When the Downtown Boise Association formed in 1987, it took on the task of decorating Downtown Boise for the holiday season, said DBA Executive Director Karen Sander. Decor has evolved from lighted wreaths to wrapping historic lamp posts with lights and more. A grant paid for the arcs of lights with snowflakes that have appeared over Downtown intersections in recent years.

The DBA starts preparing for the light display the first or second week of November. That involves checking every bulb to make sure each one works, said Sander.

The 85-foot tree atop the U.S. Bank Plaza (an icon included in this series), is one of the most famous light features in town. A framework to support the tree - and its more than 3,500 LED lights - is a permanent feature of the building.

Boise's two Christmas trees - a city tree on The Grove, a state tree on the steps of the Capitol - also contribute to the annual light show.

Boise has a long tradition of communal Christmas trees dating to the 1860s. The nearest evergreens grew on the top of the Foothills. Most families didn't go to the expense and trouble to cut their own, according to city historians.

A note in the Dec. 19, 1871, Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman concerns a public Christmas tree set up at the Good Templars Hall (at 6th and Main, where the Pioneer Building is today) "for the benefit of the children of Boise." Citizens were invited to "place articles on the tree" for their friends in preparation for a public party - with music - beginning promptly at 7 p.m., Dec. 23.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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