Christmas wreath

Mansfield recently refurbished 38 of its oldest Christmas wreaths, which were purchased nearly 20 years ago.

MANSFIELD -- Putting up the Christmas tree is a beloved tradition in many households, but the Smith family takes this yuletide ritual to a whole new level.

The family behind Shelly Smith and Sons Ltd. has helped the city of Mansfield put up its massive Christmas tree downtown every year since 1957. The towing and crane service provider donates the time, labor and equipment each year.

“My grandpa’s 90 in March and (we’ve) been setting it up since he was 26 years old,” said Shelly Smith, the company’s general manager.

“My grandpa started helping out the city because this is our hometown,” she added. “We do it to help our community. Without them we wouldn’t be in business.”

Equipment operator Wes Schafer was on the scene Monday, expertly maneuvering the 105-foot arm of a 40-ton Terex crane. Schafer lifted the tree from the bed of a delivery truck and lowered it towards a hole in the ground. His target was small -- just 18 inches in diameter -- compared to the massive pine, which stands at about 30 feet tall and weighs 2,000 pounds.

Meanwhile, a crew of four street department employees stationed on the ground guided it into place. One held the end of a rope tied around the trunk in order to keep it from swinging into buildings or light posts.

The city used funds from the downtown improvement license plate fees to purchase the tree this year. The $1500 tree came from the Hattery Chatlain Nursery, according public works director Dave Remy.

“In the past, we have always tried to find a tree that could be donated to the city or someone that wanted to donate a tree," Remy said. "Last year we had some problems finding one large enough and in as good of shape.”

The city considered getting an artificial Christmas tree this year, but ultimately decided against it.

“We’ve explored some of those options and determined that as long as we can find a supplier of a live tree, that’s kind of the direction we will continue to go," Remy said.

The city will kick off the Christmas season Friday with the official tree lighting, hosted by Downtown Mansfield Inc. and Richland Carrousel Park.

Christmastime in the City will begin at 5 p.m. with Christmas carols, community  carriage rides and photos with Santa. A community prayer will immediately precede the tree lighting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Downtown businesses will also be open for the First Friday Shop Hop.

Mansfield has also been spruced up with newly decorated Christmas wreaths.  The holiday lights committee, a subset of the Richland Community Development Group's Mansfield Beautification Sector, raised $9,000 to refurbish 38 of the city's wreaths.

The 38 wreaths were nearly 20 years old, the oldest in the city's 82-piece collection.

“We went down to city garage where they store these to see if we could fluff them out and reshape them," recalled Suzy Beeson, a member of the committee. "The needles were just falling off the wire.”

After raising the funds, volunteers stripped the wreaths down to the wire frames and sent them to the original manufacturer to be restored with new LED lights and artificial greenery.

Beeson said the community's generosity exceeded the committee's expectations.

"We had so many individual donors; we had a lot of businesses that donated money," she said. "There was a donor-advised fund at the Richland County Foundation that gave a significant amount of money.”

“We were not expecting to be able to do it all at once," she added. "We were expecting to raise a little at a time and send a few (wreaths) off as we could.”

The committee has also raised funds to add to the lighting displays in town.

"We have worked with the Parks Department on the Central Park light displays, and plan to continue adding lights every year to the downtown area," Beeson said. "The lights you see as you enter downtown at the 5-way light and at 5th and N Main St are some of our displays."

Beeson said beautification efforts not only boost spirits, they also make Mansfield a more attractive place for potential residents.

"Beautification is more important than many people realize. It’s the little things people notice when they visit a place for the first time; the efforts we make to clean up and make things look nicer demonstrate how much we care about our community," she siad. "Those kinds of things make an impression on people. The RCDG Beautification Sector volunteers work hard to make Mansfield a nicer place to live."

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at