Chamber brings hearts to Houlton

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton could soon be aglow with red, white and pink lights and glittery hearts filling downtown storefronts.

Jane Torres, executive director for the Greater Houlton Area Chamber of Commerce, has come up with a plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a manner that has never been done before in the town. 

Torres said she was inspired by the way the community came together to bring holiday lights to Monument Park for Christmas and wondered if there was some way to keep those good vibes flowing during an otherwise dreary time of the year.

Because the Chamber is unable to hold its annual dinner in March as it traditionally has done, she started thinking about different ways to brighten up the town once all of the Christmas decor was taken down.

“People probably don’t know this but I am a huge believer in the message that Valentine’s Day holds and have been working on a project to bring a little love to our community during these COVID times,” Torres said. “I am a romantic at heart and after all, we can all use a little message of love.”

Raymond Jay of Houlton affixes a homemade heart to the top of the tree at Riverfront Park as part of a Valentine’s Day promotion sponsored by the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. (Photo courtesy of Jane Torres)

Along with the help of volunteer Raymond Jay, a tree in Riverfront Park has been decorated with red and white LED lights for Valentines Day, complete with a homemade heart tree topper that Torres created with chicken wire.

To engage members of the community, the Chamber is asking people to take a photo of themselves with the Valentine’s Tree, which will be illuminated for the entire month of February. Photos can then be posted on that person’s Facebook page, with a “tag” included for the Chamber by using “@HoultonChamber” along with the hashtag “#whyilovegreaterhoulton.” The photos should include a message about what it is they love about the area.

A panel of judges will review the responses and award three prizes of “Chamber Bucks” good at any local store in the amounts of $100, $50 and $25.

Torres will also be delivering cut out hearts to local businesses that they can write on declaring what they love about the community. Those hearts will be delivered starting Feb. 1 and should soon be popping up in storefronts for people to see.

Torres admitted she also drew inspiration from the “Valentine Phantom” phenomenon that first cropped up Portland in 1976, but exploded in 1985 as a sea of red hearts seemingly appeared in downtown Portland overnight.

“We want people to tell us what they love about the greater Houlton area,” she said. “Hopefully everyone will participate, so people can walk around town and read all the different messages.”