LAKE BLUFF — George Russell retired as Lake BLuff’s village engineer in April 2015 after 25 years of service, but he didn’t stop working on village projects. This fall he created, built, delivered and hung a lasting gift: 30 green and blue lighted orbs that are hanging from trees in the downtown park.
Russell and his wife, Pam Russell, built the orbs and strung the lights with the help of volunteers. The goal: to enhance the festive nature of Lake Bluff’s tree lighting event November 26 and illuminate the Village Green for the holiday season.
Russell was apprehensive before the switch was thrown at the post-THanksgiving event. Though the Russells and volunteers got the 27,000 lights strung around the orbs and hung on the Village Green just in time, he was afraid to test the project and spoil the surprise.
“I was still nervous because we had no opportunity to turn on all the lights to see how it looked,” said Russell. Then the switch was thrown. “I was excited, elated. It was still new to me and I did not know how the town would like it but I’ve gotten nothing but compliments.”
“Unbelievable” was the word Village Administrator Drew Irvin used to describe the look.
Irvin said he and Village President Kathy O’Hara made the decision to create the orbs after discussions with Russell. He offered to donate his labor if the village would pay for the materials.
“It cost $9,000 to do everything, which is inexpensive as holiday lighting goes,” said Irvin.
The project was two years in the making after Russell built one as a Christmas decoration two years ago to hang from a tree in his yard. He said his home backs up to a ravine in Lake Bluff. He was not sure how his neighbors would react. One of them living across the ravine asked for an orb of their own last Christmas. Russell obliged. The reaction was positive.
“You could see them hanging from the trees from the Moffat Road bridge,” said Russell. “Everyone said they liked it.”
Russell said one person who was impressed was O’Hara. He said she had wanted to spruce up the village’s holiday decorations. The two of them talked and the idea was born as they joined Irvin to make final plans. With the material in hand, the Russells started working.
“For three and a half weeks I worked every straight day and half a day on Thanksgiving,” said Russell. “We got volunteers to help us get the 27,000 lights strung.” He negotiated to rent a truck with a cherry picker basket when the orbs were ready. “We got them all hung that Friday (November 25).”
A day later, Russell was part of the crowd gathered for the annual tree lighting.
“They all went on at once,” Irvin said. “It was unbelievable.”
Making the first two orbs for his family and the neighbor in all blue lights, Russell said he decided to add some green bulbs for the village’s decorations “for no apparent reason.”
“I’m glad I did,” said Russell. “The village’s logo is blue and green and it worked out real well.”