Who Turned the Lights On? Trees on Greenwich Ave and in Cos Cob Are Twinkling

Many longtime Greenwich residents recall holiday window shopping under the twinkling lights threaded through the trees on Greenwich Avenue. For decades the effort was courtesy of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce.

For a time, the prospect of holiday lights dimmed. In 2014 a netting of lights was hoisted over the two trees in front of the Senior Center. In 2015 there were no lights.

In 2016 Greenwich Green & Clean took over the project, which again reflected a significant fundraising effort.

Every tree requires a worker lifted from a bucket truck to hand string the lights up the trunk and throughout the branches. Each tree takes three to four hours. The process repeats in February when workers reverse the process to remove the lights in order to protect the trees.

Fortunately, last year the Greenwich Community Projects Fund lit up the Avenue for the holidays. Given it was the peak of the pandemic, the effort was even more appreciated.

This year, the Greenwich Community Projects Fund, a non profit that was recently involved with the 9-11 memorial in Cos Cob Park, has done it again! And they’ve expanded the effort to Cos Cob.

According to Sebastian Dostmann, the lights started to go up on October 1 and were completed by Thanksgiving.

“It takes six weeks to put up the lights and four weeks to take them all down,” Dostmann said.

The non profit has been fundraising for the lights since last year – no small task given the initiative costs about $1200 per tree and there about 100 trees on Greenwich Avenue and 19 trees in Cos Cob, according to Dostmann.

The lights are100% privately funded by stores on Greenwich Avenue, along with property owners and residents.

In addition to Mr. Dostmann, the effort is headed up by Alyssa Keleshian Bonomo, the First Selectman’s office and the Parks & Rec Tree Dept.

To find a full lost of donors head to GWCHAvenue.org.

“It’s exciting,” Dostman said. “You walk down the Avenue around 4:30 to 5:30pm and end up seeing people taking sunset photos in the crosswalk and driving down the Avenue taking photos from their cars.”

“It is a nice touch to town,” he added.

As for the expansion of the effort to Cos Cob, Dostman said the idea is to continue to spread the joy.

“We hope to light up Old Greenwich and Byram in the future,” he said.

Dostmann said that Ms Keleshian Bonomo’s father, Harry Keleshian started to light up the trees on Greenwich Avenue in the late 1970s. Keleshian was a fixture of Greenwich Avenue where he opened the Carnival Card Stop on Greenwich Avenue in 1967. Later, he opened Greenwich Office Supply, Greenwich Office Equipment, K’s Hallmark, and the Flower Gallery.

“For us it’s not just something to do. It’s also a passion,” Dostmann continued. “We were able to reach out to property owners and tenants – we have a good relationship with them. And we have good media sponsors and the banner (across the Avenue) thanks them.”

“While it’s tedious to get it done, the reward in seeing it put a smile on everyone’s faces makes it worthwhile,” Dostmann said. “We’re grateful for all donations – whether they’re $25 or $1,000 – it all goes to putting up the lights, maintaining the lights throughout the season and electrical work.”

The lights will continue to twinkle through the first week of February.

Dostmann said the Greenwich Community Projects Fund welcomes donations of all amounts.

For more on the Greenwich Community Projects Fund, or to donate, click here.