The new strings of bright, energy-efficient LED lights are up -- but they're not yet fully paid for

DAVID F. ASHTON - On tree-decorating day, the intrepid Matt Hainley (inset) again rode the bucket, taking strings of new LED lights to the top of the SMILE Christmas Tree at the edge of Oaks Bottom, on the Bybee Curve.It's been the tradition for decades for Sellwood's Hainley and Heiberg families to lead the decoration with lights of a large evergreen tree on the Oaks Bottom bluff on Thanksgiving weekend. The tree is sponsored by the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League neighborhood association (SMILE). This year, it happened a week late.

It takes a crane with a very long reach to string those lights, but this year, Smith Crane Inc. couldn't make it to the site on S.E. 13th Avenue until the morning of December 1, said Bruce Heiberg, as he fed another line of lights to be hoisted to the top of the tree.

This year, the lights are new, bright, energy-efficient, and colorful, thanks to an online fundraising campaign that so far has brought in a bit over half the amount needed to pay off the new, energy-efficient LED luminaire strings.

DAVID F. ASHTON - The SMILE Christmas Tree may or may not be the largest decorated tree in Portland, but it is enjoyed by people on both sides of the Willamette River. It can even be seen by drivers on Interstate Five after dark. At the tree lighting ceremony on Monday thee 4th, two days later, Matt Hainley again thanked Wilhelm's Portland Memorial for supplying the electricity for the lights.

"This year there will be a much smaller electric bill," Hainley told THE BEE. "The 20 strings of lights we have lighting up the tree right now draws as much as just two strings of the old lights, making an 80% savings in power."

Everything about the lighting is new, including the ropes to which the wires are lashed, the power cables and LED bulbs, he said.

"We put the new strings of lights together in a long hallway at St. Agatha Catholic School," Hainley told THE BEE. "It took about an hour to figure out what we were doing, then we made it into a 'production line' to get them ready," he added.

At the Monday evening tree lighting event, the new owners of the property, the Edwards family, enjoyed meeting their new neighbors.

"When we were looking at buying this house, we learned the property on the bluff was included with our lot," said Isaac Edwards. "We were told about the long tradition of having a lit tree here, and how important it is to the neighborhood – so here we are – happy to have probably the largest decorated Christmas tree in Portland!"

With an icy cold wind blowing across the bluff, the brief ceremony included caroling, before baby Miles Edwards had the honor of pressing remote control, and watching the tree light up.

Be sure to drive by and admire this Sellwood-Westmoreland landmark, lighting the Holidays for Inner Southeast for nearly three decades.

In addition to SMILE, the tree is sponsored by Portland Memorial, Smith Crane, Heiberg Garbage & Recycling, Treecology Tree Care, and Hollywood Lights, Inc. Last year, nearby Beeson Chiropractic assisted with electricity. To help pay off the lights, contribute online; the fundraising will continue through 2018 –

Those who enjoy this festive landmark each year are invited to log on and contribute! (It's tax-deductible; SMILE is a 501c3 nonprofit.)

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