Conway’s Christmas tree is going to be taken back by its makers for a "fine-toothed comb" inspection and, where they can find problems, upgrades.
The tree had some problems with sections of light staying dark. Its manufacturer, Get Lit, said in a press release this week that water getting into the wiring was partly to blame, and so too were suspected "vandals." Get Lit will be having a telephone conference with city officials at around 11 a.m. today, when they will talk about taking the tree back to Springdale "to go through [the tree], top to bottom, to find and repair any problem areas and upgrade or redesign components to be more robust where necessary," according to the press release. The city will not be paying for any repairs or upgrades, according to Get Lit.
According to the press release, "a tiny amount of water getting into an electrical circuit can cause a ground fault and shut off one or more sections of the tree" via ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
A GFCI is a device that breaks the electric circuit when triggered by an imbalance between the "hot" wire and the ground wire. An imbalance might be caused by part of somebody’s body making contact with the "hot" wire, and if this happens the GFCI is supposed to break the circuit quickly enough that the person won’t be electrocuted. An imbalance can also be caused by water getting into the wiring, and the press release says that people unscrewing bulbs from around the bottom of the tree have made the water problem worse.
It’s understandable that small children, who usually want to go up and touch the tree, might innocently meddle with the bulbs. However, the people at Get Lit say there’s reason to believe that some of the meddling was intentional, including one electrical connection that the release said "was burned by an external source."
Summer Hull, chief operations officer for Get Lit, wouldn’t go so far as to say on Wednesday that it looked like some miscreant had gone after the plug with a cigarette lighter, but would say that it didn’t happen on its own. "Let’s just say [the state of the burned plug] was out of the ordinary from what we normally see," Hull said.
Also, several of the plastic "branches" were pulled off. Some of these were stuffed back inside the tree structure and some were stolen outright according to Kim Williams, director of the Conway Downtown Partnership.
Another thing that will probably be discussed at the meeting is some sort of fence or chain around the tree to keep people from damaging it next year.
The idea of Christmas tree vandals adds a vile final chapter to the story of the tree’s first holiday in the city, but Williams said that she saw any number of happy children, two weddings and a half-dozen marriage proposals around the tree, "so there was a lot of good stuff too."