A Vermont business' holiday tradition is taking on new meaning this year, following a request from Gov. Phil Scott to people across the state to use holiday lights to spread some needed cheer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republican is calling on folks, if they can, to go big with their light displays this year, for a campaign called "Vermont Lights the Way."
The effort aims to uplift communities during the pandemic and send a message, Scott believes, that brighter days are ahead.
"Let's get creative, to show the world that Vermonters are here for each other," Gov. Scott said in Friday's announcement. "That we care about one another."
For S.D. Ireland, a prominent name in excavating and construction, the call gave special meaning to the two eye-catching concrete mixers that hit the roads around northwestern Vermont each year.
"It's all about giving back," said Kim Ireland of the family-owned business. "Especially this year, people need to give and think about your neighbor and do whatever you can to bring somebody some peace and some joy."
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Each of the mixer trucks is illuminated with 25,000 or more lights, according to S.D. Ireland employee Bob McMurray, who helps decorate the vehicles then drives them during the holiday season.
Those lights are held in place with lots and lots of clear duct tape, McMurray said, and require a great deal of time to methodically arrange.
"About a week per truck," McMurray estimated of the time he and coworkers spend getting the mixers ready for their time in the spotlight.
Clever wiring, or what the Ireland team calls a bit of "Christmas magic," ensures the mixers' big drums can keep spinning without messing up all the strands of lights.
The S.D. Ireland mixers used to appear at many public events, such as tree lighting ceremonies, but with so many of those canceled to cut down on gatherings in the era of COVID-19, the vehicles are shifting gears and bringing the spectacle right to onlookers this year with more neighborhood visits.
"It's just a feel-good thing that somebody can watch from their living room window as it drives by," Kim Ireland said of the trucks in an interview NECN conducted last week while the lights were being strung. "It's probably the most important year that we've ever done it."
After 2020 has so often felt dark, a surprise sight like crossing paths with the S.D. Ireland holiday mixers may just bring what's on all of our holiday wish lists: a big smile and a good laugh.
"With these rough times right now, it's definitely something we need to see," said Ali Ploof of Burlington, who saw one of mixers this weekend and took video and photos for her family. "It made me happy — definitely the Christmas spirit!"