GREENFIELD — It doesn’t take much to put a smile on Curt Anderson’s face this time of year.
But add holiday music and the important task of decorating the city’s tallest Christmas tree and the Greenfield Street Department employee is as merry as an elf.
“When God says, ‘Make a joyful noise,’ that’s what I do,” said Anderson, describing how he sang along to Christmas music blaring from his truck all day Monday while a small crew decorated the courthouse plaza. “Some of these guys are almost like Grinches, and I was trying to lighten them up a bit.”
Anderson was among a group of six city employees hanging garland and sprucing up Santa’s house Monday and Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming downtown Christmas festival.
While the level of excitement among employees varies, all were pleased to help Jolly Old Saint Nicholas by painting trim and checking lights before his arrival. After all, many of the workers are fathers, and to see the excitement on their own children’s faces makes all of the work worthwhile.
“I love it when we do Christmas lights – I love it,” said Anderson. “I have an 8-year-old girl. To see the joy in her eyes – I tell her, ‘Daddy did this for you.’”
The festival is set for Dec. 7-8, with most of the festivities – including the arrival of Santa and the lighting of the tree – on Dec. 7.
Ryan Kinder said he brings his two children to the festival every year.
“They appreciate what we do,” said Kinder. “They’re like, ‘You did this? You brought the Santa Claus’ house down here?’”
Though the house, about three decades old, gets some maintenance each year, it is in need of some major TLC. It stands outside all year long, so weather chips paint and damages the roofing.
New shingles will be ordered soon to replace those that fell off in recent years. Tuesday, employees were scraping off old trim and putting on a new layer.
Jeff Smith said it took the group about five hours Monday to get most of the decorating done, and Tuesday they were just adding some finishing touches. The employees come to the festival every year as well, and say it’s good to see all of their hard work has paid off.
“It’s neat because they have fire pits going and people in a good mood,” Smith said.
Hundreds of handmade decorations were being strung on the tree. Stephen Fruth said the ornaments are made by Greenfield-Central students, so every year they’re unique. A bucket truck and a ladder were used to reach the highest spots of the tree, nearly 30 feet tall.
While most said being Santa’s helpers puts them in the holiday spirit, Cecil Stanley said he needs a little more time this year. In fact, he booed the Christmas music because it felt too early.
“When I’m with my boy and we’re shopping for mommy or something like that – that puts me in the Christmas spirit,” Stanley said. “Spending time with family does it.”
Brad Evans said it’s good to be a part of a Greenfield tradition, and to see the lights when they’re turned on for the first time.
“The end result is always best for me,” he said. “You walk around and have a good time (and hear) all of the ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs.’ A lot of people get a lot of enjoyment out of it for three weeks, so it’s worth it.