• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
Meet Some of the City's Christmas-Making Crew 
It takes a big, dedicated team to create Christmas in the City each year.

There are the Office of Special Events planners and organizers. The police officers and firefighter EMTs who keep people safe at the parade and tree lighting. The traffic engineers who manage special-event parking and street closures. The crews that sweep leaves, clean up and collect trash before and after big events - and who keep parks and public spaces citywide looking their best.

But no one shoulders a heavier load than the Public Service Department crews that do construction and manage the center city.

Meet Foremen Bill Hinton and Johnny Strader and Operator II Josh Black.

They're just a few of the dozens of Public Service employees who construct the Market Square outdoor ice skating rink and string hundreds of thousands of holiday lights throughout downtown - and that's on top of all their regular duties.

"We've been pretty busy," says Hinton, who helped build his 14th skating rink this year. "We finished it this year in 16 days - that's counting nights and weekends. We put in 100 to 120 hours of labor every year. But I'm proud of it. It's something we enjoy working on."

From left: Public Service's Johnny Strader, Josh Black and Bill Hinton

From left: Public Service's Johnny Strader, Josh Black and Bill Hinton

Black, meanwhile, invested parts of 10 weeks painstakingly wrapping trees and light poles with holiday lights. Crews lit up downtown using thousands of strands of Christmas lights.

Counting the sparkles and twinkles on the City's 42-foot-tall Christmas Tree in Krutch Park Extension at Gay Street, there are an estimated 250,000 holiday lights downtown.

"This is one of the things we do that the public sees," says Black, a 7-year City employee. "For me, I get to bring my family and show them all the lights. It's a good feeling. It gets you in the Christmas spirit, for sure."

This week, he says, he'll be bringing his three daughters downtown to skate Market Square.

Krutch Park lights, 2021

Strader, a City employee for 17 years, also enjoys building the rink and hanging lights, and he gets a lot of satisfaction in seeing it when it's all done.

"I bring my grandkids down, to skate and look at the lights," he says.

It's fun to help decorate for the holidays and construct the ice rink.

"It's a change of pace for us," Strader says. "We do something different every day - nothing is routine. That keeps it interesting."

Most City employees are off work the day after Thanksgiving. It's a City holiday. But not for the Central crew members of the Public Service Department.

For them, it's a 16-hour work day: They come in early and set up for the Regal Celebration of Lights tree-lighting. They do a final clean-up of Market Square and Gay Street. They replace any twinkling Christmas lights that are out. Then, after the tree is lit, they'll be the last employees to go home, because they clean up the trash and sweep up the confetti.

Regal Celebration of Lights, 2021

The Public Service crews also are constantly doing battle with squirrels, whose gnawings on light strands can cause tree lights to go dark - but only a brief period of time.

"We keep an eye on the lights, throughout the season," Strader says. "When they go out, we're always fixing or replacing them."

ICYMI, here's a video showing the construction of the Market Square ice rink. For details on hours, admission and special promotions, visit knoxvillesholidaysonice.com.

Posted by evreeland On 09 December, 2021 at 10:31 PM