Like eggnog, jingles on the radio, and other staples of the holiday season, locals can rely on the warmth of Christmas lights illuminating the area from Blyn to the Dungeness River Railroad Bridge.
It’s an effort Patrick Walker of Gig Harbor started 17 years ago through a contract with Jerry Allen, CEO of 7 Cedars Casino, that has blossomed into about 3.25 million LED lights blanketing the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s properties each holiday season.
“I’ve had this conversation with the tribe a couple times saying they’ve set a precedent; they can’t ever not do it,” Walker said.
To Allen, the lights bring him back to a Christmas connection with his brother W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe tribal chairman and CEO, when the two were growing up in Port Angeles and seeing immaculate holiday displays.
“Christmas lights were a fun time of the year,” Jerry Allen said.
“We know how much it means to everyone and this is a reflection of our upbringing and the Christmas spirit we grew up with.”
Lights went “live” Nov. 15 and will remain on through the first week of January, Allen said.
As people come and go through Blyn, they’ll experience about 2.5 million lights from the administrative buildings to the new hotel, and several hundred thousand more throughout Sequim/Dungeness, including The Cedars at Dungeness golf course and Jamestown Family Health Clinic.
Installing that many lights took an average of 11 employees with P. Walker Inc. working about five weeks starting Oct. 8 and working 10-11 hours a day, seven days a week, Walker said.
Once the holidays end, it’ll take about three weeks to take down and store all the lights, Allen said.
“It continues to grow as the footprint of the tribe grows,” Allen said.
A Gig Harbor gig
Bringing lights to Blyn started with Allen after he visited his sister-in-law for Thanksgiving in Gig Harbor. There, he saw Walker’s Christmas lights installation in the Canterwood development, got his number and set up a meeting.
The pair did a tour of the grounds. Walker remembers faxing over his bid on the casino and chuckling to himself how much money it would be for the project, particularly for someone fresh out of high school.
Thirty minutes after the fax went through, Walker said Allen called him back and asked where to send the check.
“The tribe gave me my first big commercial Christmas light job and continue to trust us,” Walker said.
Now his company brings in about $5 million a year installing lights in Idaho, Oregon and Washington with as many as 50 people working from early September through the end of February, he said.
“My brother Ron realized the guy’s talents because he had done so much work and it was extended over to the Tribal Center and administrative buildings, and then the health campus and golf course and so on,” Allen said.
Walker said he hasn’t perfected the process of lights installation, but does feel about 99.9 percent competent in his work as his company has “silently grown to become the biggest Christmas lights installation company in the state.”
“Nobody does it to the scale that we do,” he said.
Walker also consults with the tribe and its contractors on new buildings to strategize where external power outlets can go to optimize light placement and avoid extension cords across sidewalks and/or roadways, he said.
“It’s year round planning making it all work,” Walker said.
Walker decorated 7 Cedars Casino 17 years ago with lights covering the grounds, trees and the roof before expanding soon thereafter to the north and south campus buildings.
His work for the tribe led to many other sizable projects out of the area, he said, because of his team’s attention to details one branch at a time.
“All of the work comes to us because of the trees,” he said.
“We wrap every single branch in a tree. I feel that’s what’s made me successful. That’s what makes people stop and look.
“It’s every single branch in a 30 foot tree and we replicate it over and over. People look at it and are mind blown.”
With more than three million lights between the tribe’s facilities, Walker believes Jamestown’s lights could be the biggest for an installation in the state.
“There are more expensive displays but this is the biggest,” he said.
Each year, he visits each tribal property to do a new assessment to account for changes and additions as trees grow and are pruned, and new buildings are purchased and constructed. They also budget to replace about 6 percent of the lights each year too.
By adding so many lights to the properties, Allen said they don’t see anything “appreciable” on top of what they already pay for electricity at the casino and other properties.
“One thing that’s become a benefit was the LED lights,” he said. “The cost of old light bulbs would make your head spin.”
Throughout all his efforts and installations, Walker said installing the large wreaths on the Railroad Bridge is his personal highlight.
“It has that classic Christmas feel to it with the wreaths,” Walker said.
When working on the bridge, he said people stop him to consistently thank him and it’s not uncommon to hear people use the spot for their annual Christmas cards.
“It’s one of the coolest things we do,” Walker said.
Through the years, positive feedback on the lights remains strong, Allen said.
“We take being a gateway to the peninsula very seriously,” he said.