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The History of Farmington Preservation & Improvement Organization

While we can’t confirm the year when the Christmas lights first crisscrossed the downtown streets, we do know for sure that they existed in the 1940's and by some accounts, as early as the 1900's. While we don't know the exact date, we know that lights have been a Farmington tradition for at least 70 or 80 years.

In the fall of 2014 the Town of Farmington received notice from PSNH (now known as Eversource) that pursuant to a law passed in 2003, the town would no longer be allowed to use the utility poles to hang our Christmas lights. Therefore, 2014 was the last year that the utility poles could be used for that purpose.

Not wanting to see the tradition end, our founder, Tom DeJulio, along with town officials began to explore ways to preserve the custom. At town meeting in 2015, Farmington residents voted to allot $11,500 to begin the process of saving the lights. The town asked Tom to form a committee to explore how best to save the lights within the budget of $11,500.

That spring, Tom gathered a few other residents and formed what was then known as The Farmington Decorating Committee and together we began to research how to preserve the tradition.

We spent many hours that spring and summer walking the streets of downtown, measuring and reviewing different options. It was determined by the committee that in order to stay within our allotted budget, the only feasible solution was to put up wooden utility poles from which we could hang the lights in the traditional crisscross fashion.

We obtained quotes for new poles including installation and presented this to the town selectmen. That fall, the selectmen voted to approve the poles and we made arrangements with NextGen to start the installation. We would also like to acknowledge that several downtown residents signed easements to allow the installation of the new poles. During the Christmas season of 2015 the installation of the poles was completed. While that first season we did not have time to put up all the lights, we were able to put up five sets of lights in the center of town and so the tradition continued without missing a year.

At Town Meeting in March of 2016, the Decorating Committee presented a warrant article asking for $6,500 to purchase banners, brackets, wiring, safety connections for the lights, and guide wire. Tom and Lee Warburton spoke at the meeting and told the townspeople that this would be the last time we would ask for tax payer money for the Christmas lights. Thereafter, our goal was to form a non-profit and develop a fund raising program to support the maintenance of the lights, banners and Christmas trees. The voters approved the warrant article and the committee purchased three sets of seasonal themed banners and necessary hardware.

During the summer of 2016 we continued to upgrade the lights with new wiring and safety boots. We also re-measured all of the sets of lights as the new poles were in different locations. It took all summer for three or four of us to resize and reset the lights.

Also, in 2016 we formed the Farmington Preservation and Improvement Organization, or FPIO, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and began fundraising. Our primary source of funding has come through two programs, our “Adopt a Banner” campaign and through sponsorship of the Christmas trees that replace the banners during the holiday season.

Funding provided by the sponsorships allowed us to start the conversion from incandescent to LED bulbs. The conversion to LED bulbs continues and we estimate it will take a total of about five years to fund and convert the entire system. All of the work is being done by volunteers and it is at no expense to the tax payers.The benefit of converting the lights to LED bulbs is twofold. First, it will cut the cost of electricity for the lights by two thirds, saving the town money over the lifetime of the bulbs, and secondly, the LED's are much stronger and don't break as easily as the incandescent bulbs.

In the late fall of 2016 we hung all of the strings of lights down Main Street and as far as possible up Central Street for the 2016 Christmas season.

During the summer of 2017 we continued to upgrade the light system, (it never ends) and purchased almost $1,000 of LED bulbs. We currently have about one third of the system converted to LED. We also made power boxes and extension cords to light up the Christmas trees that hang from the poles during the holiday season. While we still have some bugs to work out for the trees, we got most of them to work and they were a rich enhancement to the existing light display.

Sadly, just before we were ready to hang the lights in 2017, our founder, Tom DeJulio passed away unexpectedly. We decided as a group to carry on, and in his honor, we rang in the Christmas season with a well attended tree lighting ceremony complete with elementary school carolers, hot chocolate and Santa Claus. When Tom and Lee set up the group, the intention was for the group to be able to carry on with the traditions and goals despite the possibility of changes to committee membership. To this point we have been successful.

In 2018 we purchased another $1,500 worth of LED bulbs and are now troubleshooting all the strings, repairing winter damage and replacing burnt out bulbs with new LED's.

We are also working with the Farmington Recreation Department to explore ways to decorate and light up Fernald Park for the 2018 season. We will be working on this over the summer and fall and hopefully provide additional enhancements in following years.

As a way to recognize and reward community volunteerism, we are creating an FPIO Scholarship. This award will be presented to a graduating Farmington High School senior who has demonstrated civic pride and commitment by participating in community sponsored events throughout their high school career. We hope to have this scholarship established for graduation in 2019 and the goal is to be able to provide this award annually.

FPIO is truly an effort by a small group of people committed to carrying on a small town tradition and it is done with no tax dollars. We rely on our core group of volunteers and members as well sponsorships of our banners and trees from the townspeople and the businesses that support our efforts. We would like to thank all the sponsors and volunteers. Without you, we would not be able to carry on Tom's dream.

Lee Warburton,

President, FPIO

Thomas A. DeJulio, Founder

February 9, 1955 ~ November 7, 2017

Thomas A. DeJulio, 62, passed away Tuesday,

November 7, 2017. Born in Bridgeport, Conn.,

he lived in Farmington since 1979.

Mr. DeJulio was a master electrician for over 44 years. Tom loved coaching softball when his daughters were younger. He passionately fought for the Christmas lights of Farmington to bring families together.

He will be beyond missed by his wife of 38 years Lauren DeJulio and two daughters, Kaylee and Ashlyn DeJulio.

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