The iconic “Merry Christmas” wreath is set to come down from its perch above Sunken Gardens in early April, but a community-wide effort will have it sparkling again in time for Christmas 2019.
“The reason it has to come down now is so the work can get started to have it ready for the lighting ceremony on Sunday night, Dec. 1,” says Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters.
The wreath, built in 1937, originally decorated the exteriors of the former Wolf & Dessauer buildings, first in Fort Wayne and then in downtown Huntington. After the department store closed, the wreath moved to the side of the former Huntington First National Bank building. It joined the Christmas display at Sunken Gardens in 1998, following a decade in storage.
After 81 years, the plywood frame and 3,148 bulbs need some serious attention. The wreath was in such poor condition that it was not lighted for Christmas 2018.
“It’s truly not safe to turn on,” Fetters says. “But it’s just such a vital part of Christmas in Huntington and has been for many years.”
The rebuilt wreath will look identical to the original and will operate more efficiently.
“Dan Drummond and the folks at Huntington Sheet Metal have stepped up to provide a new framework,” Fetters says.
The Huntington Sheet Metal crew will take detailed measurements of the wreath in order to fabricate a new, lightweight frame that will allow the wreath to be removed from Sunken Gardens after each holiday season. Currently, the wreath remains at Sunken Gardens throughout the year, covered with a tarp when it’s not being used.
Once the frame is fabricated, the red, green and white incandescent bulbs — which could pose a fire hazard — will be converted to safer, more energy efficient LED lights.
The bulbs currently in the wreath may be sold as keepsakes as part of an effort to raise funds for the new wreath, Fetters says.
A fund has been established with the Huntington County Community Foundation to receive donations to help pay for the wreath’s resurrection, although exact costs are not yet known.
A task force of community volunteers is being established to lead the fundraising effort.