WHITEFISH, Mont. — Holiday decorations in Whitefish are more than just something festive, they’re a tradition -- an almost 70-year tradition.
“It’s great,” resident Chris Schustrom said. “It’s what makes Whitefish Whitefish.”
Schustrom was born and raised in Whitefish and has fond memories of the city’s holiday decorations. Now he’s part of Whitefish Shines, the nonprofit volunteer group that coordinates the project.
Whitefish Shines cares for the city’s decorations year after year. Some of them have been around for decades, like the red bells that adorn the garlands -- the city acquired those in the 1950s.
Getting the decorations ready for the holiday season starts early. Whitefish Shines members begin examining every light bulb in September.
It’s no small task -- there are about 11,000 light bulbs on the 42 garlands, 26 snowflakes and around 50 wreathes. Maintaining all of it costs about $6,000 per year.
“It’s all donated money,” Schustrom said. “And all of the efforts that go into the project are volunteer.”
About 40 volunteers pitch in to put up the decorations in late November. It’s something people in the community appreciate.
“It’s so magical, honestly,” Whitefish resident Lauren Matchett said. “It doesn’t feel like Christmas without the snow and the decorations.”