"Hey, you didn't fall into the river!" laughed one of the editors, as if she honestly thought there was a chance that I might have.
I had just returned from 'helping' with the set-up of the Christmas sign along the Allegheny River on Friday morning, and I am cold and slightly damp.
Outside, it is a brisk 49 degrees and drizzling, but that didn't stop more than 40 volunteers from showing up and helping wherever needed. The new sign, built by Sturdevant Sign Co., stretches nearly 400 feet down the banks of the Allegheny on the edge of Crescent Park.
Times Observer photo by Brian Collins
Many people gathered Friday morning to help assemble the Warren Wishes You Merry Christmas Happy New Year sign at Crescent Park, a tradition that has been carried on for nearly 70 years.
It's a tradition that has continued in Warren for nearly 70 years.
When I showed up at 9:45 a.m., Jim Zavinski and members of the City of Warren's Department of Public Works had already unloaded most of the letters and volunteers were already spelling out the 'Wishes' part of "Warren Wishes You Merry Christmas Happy New Year."
By 10 a.m., there were over 20 volunteers ranging from grandmothers with their grandchildren to the quarterback of the Warren Area High School football team. Being one of the few people present who stands at 6 feet tall, I found myself charged with screwing in the top light bulbs nearly eight feet off the ground. In the meantime, Morgan Munksgard and her grandmother Karen Gray had already taken charge of the bottom and middle bulbs. "We just wanted to keep the tradition going," said Gray, "and I wanted my granddaughter to be a part of it."
As 10:15 a.m. rolled around, I took advantage of the fact that more than 40 people had shown up to help and slipped out to snap a few photos. Standing on the Hickory Street Bridge, it was truly fascinating to watch as the last few letters were raised up.
Throughout the week, I had laughed and groaned to my friends and co-workers, saying things such as "Do you have any idea how long it'll take to screw in 1,500 light bulbs?" Well, I got my answer.
Thanks to the work of many people, the whole process from start to finish took just over an hour. That is the fastest that it has ever been assembled, according to Zavinski.
When all is said and done, 63 minutes have passed, less than a dozen bulbs have been dropped and broken ... and my fingers are completely numb. One last look from across the river confirmed that everything was spelled correctly and the letters are perfectly aligned.
The lighted message can be seen from around 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. daily throughout the holiday season.