As dusk slipped into darkness Saturday night, Sam Starns checked for cars before walking into the middle of an empty Southeast Jackson Street and looked south toward Southeast Lane Avenue.
Standing with her husband, Brian Simshauser, and another friend, Starns couldn’t stop smiling.
Thanks to a successful capital funding campaign and an army of volunteers earlier in the day, an estimated 64,000 white holiday Christmas lights now illuminate a combined eight city blocks a night.
“It’s enchanting. It’s charming,” Starns said. “It makes me want to spend more time downtown after hours.”
This isn’t the first time holiday lights have lit up downtown Roseburg, but this by far is the largest number of lights. More than 60 people and three lift trucks showed up earlier Saturday to wind lights on every light pole and every tree from Southeast Douglas Avenue to Southeast Lane Avenue. Volunteers helped transform Southeast Main Street one block over into a similar scene.
Two years ago, Starns suggested that the Downtown Roseburg Association, under former executive director Alyssa McConnel, light up downtown Roseburg with Christmas lights. According to Starns, there were enough lights to light up poles and trunks of trees.
After a smaller effort in 2018, Starns, who now has an office downtown for her photography business, came to current DRA executive director Susie Johnston-Forte with the idea to light up downtown Roseburg during the holidays with more lights ever than before.
In a decision that resulted in some criticism on social media, the Downtown Roseburg Association agreed to seek donations to purchase all new lights that will be reused every year, Starns said.
“We want to keep using these lights,” she said.
Starns said organizers didn’t quite reach their fund-raising goal, they were able to cover all expenses.
With the help of companies like Pacific Power, Douglas Fast Net and Roseburg Rentals, volunteers installed the lights in less than half a day on Saturday. Members of the Umpqua Community College baseball team also pitched in.
“This is my first time stringing lights downtown. And I am in awe,” Johnston-Forte said earlier Saturday.
Much like his wife, Simshauser said he knew the effort to light up Roseburg had to succeed.
“This is the heart of Roseburg. This is the center of Roseburg. This is our foundation,” Simshauser said.