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The Holidays Are Long Gone, But Not for Local Lighting Pros

Ryan Heinsius

If you’re one of the many people dragging your feet to take down your holiday lights, here’s a little advice from 97-year-old Ethel Thomas, the grandmother of KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius:

“There’s nothing as over as Christmas.”

And that’s why a growing number of professionals have found a lucrative niche putting up and taking down lights and decorations. While you might not have the time and energy to do it, they certainly do for the right price. Ryan has this report. 

Bradley Tremper is 30 feet off the ground, scuttling across the metal roof of a Flagstaff apartment building. He plucks a magnetic string of lights from the edge and meticulously wraps it onto a spool. It’s one of the easier jobs of what he calls the take-down season.

“Today’s not too bad, it’s 55 degrees and sunny. It’s not too shabby, but most of the time it’s pretty brutal taking lights down. Oftentimes I’ll be using a chisel to get lights out of ice and gutters,” he says.

Credit Ryan Heinsius
Bradley Tremper's Flagstaff-based company, Holiday Cheer, has built a roster of dozens of residential and commercial clients in the five years he's been hanging holiday lights.

This is just one of dozens of commercial and residential clients of Tremper’s business Holiday Cheer. Small jobs start at a few hundred dollars, while more elaborate displays cost a lot more. This holiday season, the Flagstaff Downtown Business Alliance paid him about $10,000 to light up nearly 50 trees, and then, of course, take the strands down. It keeps him pretty busy.

“A lot of times I’ll try to set up lights so that when they come down with enough force at end it’s like dominoes, and all the lights will come down in one swoop,” he says.

The take-down season lasts until February, and Tremper needs every bit of that time to disassemble his work—from humble Charlie Brown displays, to Clark W. Griswold setups you can see from space. In the five years he’s been hanging lights, demand for what he does has grown significantly.

“I definitely have seen more signs for companies doing this so I think there are more people doing this. Our small town has grown into a big town and there’s a lot more people wanting to have their lights put up,” he says.

There aren’t any definitive numbers for the national industry, but professionals across the board say it’s growing rapidly. Companies are popping up in nearly every state as people have less time to deal with a giant inflatable Frosty the Snowman, or Santa and his entire team of reindeer. Dustin Mast owns the Flagstaff franchise of the national company Christmas Décor.

“The industry, I would say, is at its peak right now from what we’ve seen. We’ve had double-digit growth year after year,” he says.

The corporate office reports nearly 15 percent annual growth since 2012 in 300 markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mast believes the numbers speak to people’s busy lives, and it’s just a lot safer to have a pro climb around on your roof. It’s a lot of work, and it continues long after the holidays are over.

“We’re expecting to get done with our takedowns probably in another week and a half, two weeks. Right now, I’d say we’re probably about half done with our properties and with our clients,” he says.

Demand for professional holiday lighting isn’t just limited to homes and businesses. Local governments are getting in on it too: Coconino County spent nearly $3,000 this season, and the City of Flagstaff shelled out about $21,000. It’s part of what keeps pros like Bradley Tremper and Dustin Mast looking ahead to 10 months from now, when it’ll all start up again.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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