Deck the Halls

Overton Square, Downtown prepare for holiday cheer

By Amos Maki

It was early Tuesday, a little more than 48 hours before Overton Square was set to throw a major holiday celebration complete with a tree-lighting ceremony, school choirs and dozens of participating tenants.

Taylor Harris of Christmas and Holiday Creations unpackages ornaments for a 20-foot tree in Overton Square that will be part of Thursday’s Light up the Square event.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Jeremy Reed, the Square’s property manager for developer Loeb Properties, was helping oversee the frenzied prep work, including the installation of more than 18,000 lights and 1,000 feet of garland.

“There’s a lot of people working, a lot of boxes and wreaths, people on ladders,” said Reed. “It’s contained chaos but nothing from stopping people from visiting our restaurants or retailers.”

The free Light up the Square event kicks off Thursday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. with Memphis Police Department motorcycles and the Central High School marching band, followed by several school choirs and the tree-lighting ceremony.

It’s gearing up to be a holiday-themed weekend in Memphis. In addition to the Overton Square festivities, the Downtown Memphis Commission resumes its holiday parade down Beale Street on Saturday, Dec. 6, after a two-year hiatus.

Everything about this year’s holiday celebration at the Square is bigger and, organizers hope, better than last year’s celebration. There’s a taller tree, more decorations and more tenants.

“The goal in mind starting last year was to add decorations every year, but we really went all out and almost doubled our décor,” said Reed.

Pat McElhaney, owner of Christmas and Holiday Creations, which decorates homes and businesses for the holiday season, was tasked with adorning the Square for the season.

“It’s a great job because I only work three months a year,” said McElhaney with a laugh.

In addition to the Square, Christmas and Holiday Creations has decorated many other properties across the city, including the Crescent Center, Triad Centre and International Paper office buildings in East Memphis.

“It’s cold, sometimes it’s wet, but it’s enjoyable,” she said. “It make you smile to see that people really enjoy what you’re doing. It’s very gratifying.”

Overton Square’s tree measures 18 feet this year, up from 14 feet last year. The tree will be located at Madison Avenue and Cooper Street and will have a unique “star” at the top: the “gyroscope” sculpture.

“I can’t wait to see it,” said Mamie Shannon, director of public events at the Square. “As you come down Madison it should just be fabulous.”

Every Overton Square tenant is participating in Thursday’s event.

“We have a great group of tenants, and they’re all contributing something that will make the holiday experience unique for our patrons,” said Reed. “It’s really an open-house night for the Square.”

Meanwhile, Downtown officials are preparing for the holiday parade Saturday.

“The Grindfather,” Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, will serve as the “Grindmarshal” for the parade, which starts at 4 p.m.

This is the first Downtown holiday parade since 2011. Officials with the Downtown Memphis Commission suspended the parade after that year’s event to save money for new Downtown decorations.

The 30-foot Downtown holiday tree, located at Beale and Rufus Thomas streets, is adorned with around 2,000 ornaments. Court Square, including the fountain, is festooned with decorations, 200 lamp poles are lit with decorative lighting, and 200 snowflakes dangle in trees along Main Street.

“It gets dark earlier now and this is a great way for us to light up the area, but it’s also the season of light,” said Leslie Gower, vice president of marketing and communications for the DMC. “I think it makes people want to get out more and shop more and it makes them feel like they’re in a more interesting environment.”