Christmas lighting company to ‘Briten’ BYU

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Brite Nites used more than 1,000 strands of lights for the Draper “Tree of Life.” The lights for this tree alone cost upwards of $25,000. Brite Nites put up the BYU light display this year. (Brite Nites)

The Christmas spirit doesn’t usually kick in for most people until the bellyaches of Thanksgiving start to subside, but for Brite Nites, every day is Christmas.

Brite Nites service vehicles, ladders and a forklift were spotted outside the Joseph F. Smith Building as the holiday lighting company started to unravel Christmas lights for the festive season.

Paul Morgan, Brite Nites BYU account representative, said students can find lighting displays all over campus.

“In total there were five locations where we installed lights: Brigham Square, an area in front of the Joseph Fielding Smith Building and two campus entrances,” Morgan said.

For the first time ever, BYU has made the change from designing and installing its own Christmas lighting displays to having an outside vendor do the work. The Department of Buildings and Grounds works closely with Brite Nites to ensure that the work meets its high Christmas standards.

“Each area was specifically selected by members of the Department of Buildings and Grounds. Under the direction of the department, I was able to get to work and organize the designs and installation of Christmas lights,” Morgan said.

Bob Cottam works in the special events area of the BYU Grounds Department. He has worked at BYU for 42 years and has helped with Stadium of Fire, Education Week, Women’s Conference, Especially for Youth, sports camps and BYUSA activities.

Cottam said that this year is different because BYU used an outside vendor for the outside Christmas lighting. “Before, the tree pruning crew and another crew would install the lights on campus. This would take them away from their regular care of the trees … This way it took several weeks to install all the lights. By going to an outside vendor, they were able to put all the lights up in just two days,” he said.

Cottam said that Brite Nites will come back and take the lights down after the holidays and store them until next year. He said working with outside vendors is a common practice, but he and the grounds crew lets them know about BYU standards and their expectations.

Servicing everything from smaller residential properties to large-scale shopping malls, Brite Nites workers brave the winter weather, clamber up trees and scale icy roofs to install their custom lights, garlands and wreaths.

Christmas lights decorate Brigham Square early morning on the BYU campus. (Jenna Koford)
Christmas lights decorate Brigham Square early one morning on the BYU campus. (Jenna Koford)

Freshman Anna Stone, from Chantilly, Virginia, tweeted about the lights earlier this month. “My heart may have gotten a little too excited,” Stone tweeted.

Other parts of campus are also preparing for Christmas. Mckenzie Butler, a BYU student from Syracuse, said “the bell tower has started playing Christmas music.”

The Wilkinson Student Center also put up Christmas trees earlier this month, sparking some debate among students about whether or not Christmas came too early this year.

Cottam is responsible for other Christmas decorations on campus. He said there are about 130 Christmas trees that go up each year in different buildings and offices on campus. The artificial Christmas trees on campus range in height from 12 to 24 feet tall.

“We used to use real Christmas (trees) years ago, but they would dry and become a fire hazard and also make a mess in the buildings. This way the department gets their same tree each year,” Cottam said.

With more than 600 residential and commercial accounts, Christmas for Brite Nites never comes early enough. New stock is ordered early on, and large commercial lighting displays are designed as early as March. As soon as September hits, Brite Nites’ sales and installations are in full swing.

Brite Nites president, Dean Lyons, talked about why homeowners, businesses and even universities hire the company: “It’s all about the look. I call it the wow factor. Everyone loves to look at beautiful lighting displays.”

Now that BYU’s new lighting displays are fully installed, walking around campus to see them might be one of the best ways to burn off some of those Thanksgiving calories.

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