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5 Questions with Mayor Robyn Tannehill: The holidays in Oxford

If you were captivated by the look of the downtown square this year, then you can stop into city hall and thank Mayor Robyn Tannehill and those in the building and electrical departments.

The group effort has wrought a near heavenly spectacle, which featured the city bringing the illustrious canopy of lights. If you enjoyed the canopy, don’t fret: Mayor Tannehill said the city is “absolutely” keeping the lights for next year.

Mayor Tannehill spoke to the EAGLE about the holiday season in Oxford this year, and what stood out the most to her.

How would you describe the holiday season in Oxford this year, with the addition of the canopy of lights?

It’s magical. And this this community, we have been ranked as one of the most beautiful downtowns, one of the most beautiful campuses, and we do take great pride in the fact that we’ve been able to maintain the downtown business district when many small towns have not. And I think that the lights just help us, you know, kind of set it apart. It’s just a really special place.

What inspired the decorations in Oxford this year?

When I got elected, there were some things that I wanted to bring back. We went through a three-year process of vision 20/37 where we talked about what do you treasure most about the community as we grow? What do we want to protect? What do we want to maintain? And now, one thing that I really want to maintain, it’s harder to put it on paper or in a report, but what is it that people treasure most about growing up here, the older generation. What are your memories of Oxford? What places do we need to keep it just as they are in that kind of thing. And I’ve heard repeatedly people say ‘oh, my best memory was as a child, with the downtown area looked like it was just magical.’

Who were the most influential people for this year’s holiday season in Oxford?

I would say this year it’s our guys at building and grounds department, and the electric department who facilitated all this. I had the idea to pursue it, but I wasn’t here at 4:00 a.m., stringing those lights or planning over the past year with engineers how to do this without pulling some building over, or light post over on someone’s car. Those guys really are the greatest of all time for this Christmas season for sure. But, we have a downtown square alliance that planned to open houses, which was the Friday after thanksgiving. We have a chamber of commerce that promotes shopping locally during the holidays, which is so important. When you talk about setting the mood for Christmas, we’ve had school groups for the past two weeks out front caroling everyday, just school buses dropping off little people. I mean I can barely say I’m office because keep going out there to listen. Just things like, just the whole community, and I think that community buy in is what makes us special

How important is it for Oxford to have a grand holiday aesthetic?

For many years, Christmas was the time that everything slowed down to a snail’s pace in Oxford, which seems really great for your townies that enjoy kind of some breathing room, no waiting in restaurants and that kind of thing. But, if you owned the restaurant, or the hotel, or the shop, it was just that was not your favorite time of year, because things slow down. So, for the very same reason, the townies loved it, it was stressful for these business owners. I was the tourism director in 1994 and ’95, and we looked for special events and planned special events around times that were slower. It’s really a focus for me, and for Visit Oxford, to try to find ways to attract people to Oxford in times that are slower. I mean football season’s over, the students have gone home, so what a perfect time to advertise Oxford, and promote Oxford as a weekend get away to do your Christmas shopping and to relax and to have this beautiful backdrop to um, do your Christmas holiday shopping. So it’s very important for us to be able to have more than, you know, a few times a year that Oxford sees crowds.

Do you have one last holiday message for Oxford residents?

I would encourage people to look around. We take things for granted. We drive past gorgeous buildings, tree-lined streets, Christmas lights, things that we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays that sometimes we don’t take a minute to look around and go, wow, we get to live here. And that’s really what I think very often when I’ll take a minute to reflect. One of my favorite things to do and especially during the holidays with these new lines is go up to … the attic and you can look at those top lights of city hall. So you’re looking at the top of the canopy of lights and it looks like a snow globe … I mean it’s just beautiful. And sometimes I’ll just have to walk up there and look and go: this is why I do this. I get to live here. It’s such a special place.