MURRAY – It started with a Twitter message from a broadcaster with Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers as a way of helping people deal with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has now become a nationwide trend; people are putting their Christmas lights on display for all to see in the spring. And Murray is part of that.
“There was an article I saw about it on CNN I think and I thought, Hmm? That's a pretty cool idea. Then I noticed that a couple of my neighbors had put up a few and I thought I could do that too,” said Jeremy McKeel, whose house on Edinborough Drive in Murray’s west side has been bathed in multi-colored lights for a few days now. The display includes red lights on a pair of trees in the front yard, while the house is lined with bulbs.
"The hardest ones to get up, which are on those trees and on the house itself, were still up (from Christmas) because I tend not to take them down because it’s too cold or it’s raining (in the winter). It seems like it’s always been raining this year, so I hadn’t pulled the hardest ones down yet (when the pandemic started becoming a major issue for the country).
“Not all of (his usual display) is out. I have some stuff that would go along the sidewalk or candy canes and a big Mickey Mouse thing in the yard that are specifically Christmasy things that I’m not putting up. It’s pretty much just lights.”
Lane Grindle was the Brewers broadcaster who asked the world to light up. He did that with a Tweet, “What if we all put our Christmas lights back up? Then we could get in the car and drive around and look at them. That seems like a fair social distancing activity.”
Since then, psychologists have gone on TV news programs and said that this kind of activity can, in fact, brighten spirits. McKeel said that appears to be happening in his neighborhood.
“It’s just something unique. For me, the fun part is it has been really nice to be outside and the difference in this being springtime lighting, I thought, was kind of fun,” McKeel said. “It’s also something for the kids. The kids obviously are going to remember this time as being challenging. So maybe they’ll at least be able to say, ‘Hey! Remember the time it was warm in the springtime and all of those Christmas lights were on?’ Who knows? Maybe that makes people smile.”
Like McKeel, Ailene Greene said that the large Christmas tree that passersby can easily view from the street on Canterbury Drive in the south part of Murray had not been taken down as of yet when the pandemic started putting a chokehold on the nation. It usually does not come down until March or April anyway.
“This time of year is so dreary, so I keep it up. It makes me happy,” Greene said of the tree that is dotted with Christmas ornaments made by all of her and husband Ron’s children. However, it has taken on a new meaning since mid-March. “I’m making a statement. It just happened to be right on schedule this time.
“More people have stopped by and commented about it. I’ll just be sitting on the front porch in the evenings and many people will stop their cars in the street to look at it. I’ll wave at them.”
One of the neighbors McKeel said he noticed getting into the Christmas spirit in spring were Burton and Cathy Young. Cathy said the two clear-light Christmas trees on their porch on Edinborough were placed after she saw a story about this trend on TV one day.
“We’ve been trying to do all kinds of things that have started because of this,” Cathy said, adding that she likes a trend she has noticed in which households are displaying teddy bears in windows. “We also have been doing the chalking of driveways a lot. That’s something that has also started since all of this began and we’ve been doing that with our granddaughter.”
If anyone knows about Christmas lights displays, it is Murray-Calloway County Parks and Recreation Maintenance Director Steve Wilhelm, who creates the massive Murray Bank Festival of Lights show each November and December at Central and Chestnut parks. So it probably should not have been surprising that he decided to bring a little something to the COVID-19 situation.
He now has, in the form of a rather simple gesture, bathed the main sign to Central in green, which is how Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has asked Kentuckians to honor the lives of those who have died from this illness so far.
““One day last week, I went to look for bulbs I could use for my house. Then, I started thinking that I could do something at the park. I noticed that we have three of them for the big sign; it wouldn’t be much to switch those from white to green,” Wilhelm said. “It was really simple and didn’t take a whole lot of time. I didn’t know what it was going to look like but when I saw it I went ‘wow! This is really cool!’
“I am impressed with this. It’s my little way of communicating perhaps how important this is to save lives and honor the ones who did not survive. It’s just a small gesture.”