As the weather cools, members of the Bellarmine community grow excited for the upcoming holidays. Bellarmine helps get students into the holiday spirit with some campus traditions. One tradition in particular that sticks out to a majority of the students is seeing Tony Schnell, Bellarmine’s groundskeeper, stringing Christmas lights on the tree in the quad.

Every year, Schnell takes a 40-foot lift to the quad and begins to hang the lights upon the tree around the middle of November. Schnell has been doing this for 17 years, and he originally strung the lights on a different tree that died during a snowstorm seven years ago.

“We used to have a great big tree in front of Horrigan,” Schnell said. “It was 75-feet tall. We had an actual crane come in, and it took two of us to be able to do that.”

In addition to all of the work for the tree in the quad, Schnell works just as hard for the tree-lighting ceremony in University Dining Hall.

“The tradition is the tree-lighting ceremony in UDH,” said Robert Zurkuhlen, Bellarmine’s grounds manager. “At the same time they light the UDH tree, the tree in the quad lights up, every year at 6:00.”

There are 30 strings of lights, with over 2,100 LED lights that go on the tree. These lights are old-fashioned lightbulbs to increase visibility. Because they are LED, they do not use much electricity, which is much more energy efficient. It takes about two days of work for Schnell to string all the lights on the 30-foot tree.

“We have to go through all the lights from last year and repair them,” Zurkuhlen said. “ It takes a couple days to just go through the lights before he puts them up.”

Bellarmine’s facilities workers always make sure to have the lights up before the tree lighting ceremony, regardless of weather. This year, they were fortunate to catch some of the unusually warm days to put up the lights.

Former president Dr. Joseph McGowan began the tradition of lighting the trees. The facilities teams continues to put lights on the trees to honor him and to celebrate the holidays with the rest of the Bellarmine community. Many students begin to show their excitement for the holidays by posting pictures and videos to their social media accounts.

“Every year I’ve felt like I’m on film because they’re taking a picture or watching. It’s exciting for you guys (students) when it’s the end of the semester,” Schnell said.

Junior Madison Trachsel said she thinks Schnell couldn’t be more right.

“It fills my heart with joy. I love the lights and Christmas and having them as a tradition on campus,” she said.

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