Future Uncertain for Flemington's Christmas Balls

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Passersby unfamiliar with the Christmas balls sometimes slow their cars to get a longer look. Credits: Curtis Leeds
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The colors of the Christmas balls seem to complement those used on Flemington's welcoming mural. Credits: Curtis Leeds
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FLEMINGTON, NJ – With just 10 days before Christmas, the fate of the borough’s Christmas balls remains murky.

The ornaments made their first appearance here last year. They were purchased by the borough’s first Business Improvement District, and passersby couldn’t help but notice them. To say that they are oversized would be an understatement. They are made of fiberglass and it’s doubtful any tree could support them.

Apparently, some people have trouble supporting them, too. The balls are controversial, said Judy Goodwin, the executive director of Flemington Community Partnership.

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FCP inherited the decorations from its predecessor, the Flemington Business Improvement District. When the borough de-designated the FBID and conveyed its authority to FCP, the FBID’s assets made the transition, too.

How could anyone object to a set of Christmas ornaments?

Perhaps their size simply offends. Or, Goodwin speculates, perhaps their pastel, non-traditional colors just don’t fit with the palette many residents prefer for the borough, and which many use for their outdoor holiday displays.

Whether you like them or not, the FBID paid $4,000 for the balls. And while that might seem expensive, the cost doesn’t end there. That’s because they have to be safely stored after use.

FBID apparently made an agreement to pay Rileighs Outdoor Décor in Allentown, Pa. $600 annually for the balls. That was to include $350 for storage and $250 to install and then again remove them.

According to Goodwin, FBID didn’t budget for the fees owed Rileighs. That foisted the cost onto FCP, along with the cost of the minor repairs needed to keep the balls in good shape. After outdoor display and transportation to-and-fro, they had suffered some minor damage.

Given their controversy, Goodwin negotiated a settlement with Rileighs. The company agreed to install and remove the ornaments just one more time – at no cost to FCP. In exchange, FCP would then allow Rileighs to take ownership of the balls. That would have made this year probably the last that they’d be part of the borough’s decorations.

But former borough Councilman Al Brewer thought the decorations might be worth keeping. He rather likes the balls, and – after consulting with Goodwin – is investigating whether there might be a way to keep them here. Brewer promised to check with a friend who owns a body shop, and who might be willing to repair the fiberglass and – perhaps – paint them into colors more suitable to borough tastes. Brewer said he'd consider picking up the tab.

The balls are currently on display near the end of North Main Street, on the former Agway property in front of the colorful “Welcome to Flemington” mural.

There’s no assurance that Brewer will be successful. If he’s not, the unusual decorations will pass into Flemington history, along with Flemington High School, Acme Market and Blaher’s Photo store.  

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