Photo credit: John Burdumy

Historic Kennett Square’s Light Up the Square tree lights on State Street inspired a lot of love last year. The community-focused nonprofit raised the funds in 2019 to wrap ten twenty-five foot trees along State Street in lights. The result was spectacular, and the lights were enjoyed by all throughout the holiday season and the winter months that followed. According to merchants, Light Up the Square is more important than ever this year—to bring much-needed cheer, but also to create an inviting atmosphere to draw people to town to shop and dine and support the small business community.

“The lights encourage people to walk around town and make them feel more comfortable shopping on State Street,” says Katie Curran, owner of Maura Grace Boutique. Deena Johnson, owner of Marché, agrees. “The lights create a great vibe,” she says.

The lights evoke something deeper as well. “It’s not just the aesthetic,” says Chef Scott Morozin of Verbena BYOB. “It’s beautiful and warm, but it’s also that the lights make people feel invited.” Morozin praises Historic Kennett Square for this support and other initiatives that have transformed the town. “When I arrived in the middle of winter two years ago, it was a dark town,” he says, “but the lights show that Kennett Square cares about its image. Maybe the lights make people feel safer, too, but everyone responds to the beauty and they evoke happiness.”

Beauty can also prompt us to focus on the bigger picture. “In this crazy world today, we are all looking for a little boost. Seeing the lights lining State Street brings me joy and reminds me of the positive things happening in our community,” says Ed Camelli, owner of Trail Creek Outfitters. “Lighting makes a positive impact—visually and emotionally too. Done tastefully, lighting has a way of elevating a space, indoors or out, evoking warmth and helping visitors feel welcome,” says Kari Matthews, owner of Clean Slate Goods.

Kennett Square, which was recently named one of the 24 most charming spots to shop local in Pennsylvania, has earned that reputation based not only on its historic character, small-town feel, and its many award-winning small shops and restaurants, but also on its ambiance. Last Christmas, Matthews says, one customer from New York City told her that Kennett Square was one of the most charming downtowns she’d ever seen. “She said that our street, with its beautiful lights, beat out any she had seen in the city. So many customers commented on the beauty of the trees lit up along State Street last year, some even commenting that they hoped they would remain that way long after Christmas passed,” Matthew says.

Corien Siepelinga, Square Pear Gallery owner and Historic Kennett Square board member, led the initiative to light the trees last year. Siepelinga had seen how lights transformed other downtowns and, together with Treemendous Tree Care, designed the lighting plan for State Street. This year’s expanded Light Up the Square will add another large tree on West State Street as well as roof-line lights on the 100 block of South Union Street, trees on South Broad Street, and a few trees on West Cypress Street as well.

“We’ve heard some very good questions about the lights,” says Historic Kennett Square Executive Director Bo Wright, “and we want to reassure everyone that Gareth Peoples, an arborist and graduate of Penn State University, as well as a former arborist at Longwood Gardens, and his experienced, professional team at Treemendous Tree Care, are committed to ensuring the ongoing health of the trees in addition to providing Kennett Square the most beautiful—and cost-effective and eco-friendly—display for Light Up the Square every year. The staff at Treemendous are committed to monitoring and checking the lights frequently in accordance with their contract as well as pruning the trees as needed.”

“We’re very grateful for the anchor sponsorship from Longwood Gardens that makes this possible, in addition to support from community members and corporate sponsors,” Wright says. “One of Historic Kennett Square’s Christmas in Kennett themes this year is ‘Joy to you from KSQ,’ and the tree lights really reflect that joy.” He adds that a donation to Light up the Square, in any amount, is a perfect tribute to a loved one and a great way to spread that joy this season. “Every sponsor will receive a window cling with original artwork by April Heather Art to identify them as a 2020 sponsor and help spread the word about the Light Up the Square campaign, and Corien Siepelinga is creating ornaments featuring the names of sponsors, or the names of those in whose honor or memory donations have been given, for all donations over $50. These ornaments will decorate a tree next to the Franklin Building on State Street.”

While no one knows what the winter months will bring, one thing is certain: Light Up the Square will continue to inspire hope and make the cold, dark winter nights feel brighter. “This year, perhaps more than any in the recent past, lighting up the Square has the potential to give visitors and business owners alike a much-needed boost of warmth, cheer, and beauty,” says Matthews.

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to help Light up the Square this season, please click here to donate.