The Greater Arbutus Business Association is seeking $2,000 to adorn its streetlights with solar string lights this holiday season.

The southwestern Baltimore County town “takes great pride” in spreading holiday cheer, said Mark Nettleship, who has played Santa Claus at the Arbutus Santa House since it was established around 30 years ago.


Natives return home to Arbutus each year to witness Santa’s arrival, take their children or grandchildren to the Santa House, and to view the ever-changing Christmas train garden at the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department’s said Patsy Plowman, office administrator for the Greater Arbutus Business Association.

The association wants to buy enough lights to wrap around at least 31 streetlight poles where the local business-sponsored banners hang.

“We’re trying to transform the town” by lighting the route from where Santa Claus begins his journey at the I-95 overpass, traveling down East Drive to the Arbutus Town Hall on Stevens Avenue, Plowman said.

“We don’t usually have a Christmas parade,” Plowman said, “but if we lit up the streets and let the kids know … we might be able to encourage them all to come out and cheer him on.”

The lights will be hung Nov. 29, one day before the Arbutus Santa House holds its grand seasonal opening. GABA has raised $1,485 since Oct. 25 to put toward its goal, and plans to wrap the lights around at least 31 streetlights where the holiday banners hang, Plowman said.

There are “some [holiday] decorations throughout Arbutus,” she added. “We want to really make it more.”

The association is also seeking volunteers to help hang the lights — those interested are asked to meet at 9 a.m. in front of the town hall at 1349 Stevens Ave.

Money raised will also buy batteries for candles to put in business windows; although lighting up every business window may be too ambitious, Plowman said.

Arbutus’s Christmas traditions are a collaboration between volunteers and businesses, Plowman said.

“We all work together,” she said.

Arbutus area businesses seasonally fund raise to support the Arbutus Santa House and other holiday initiatives, said Nettleship, president of the Arbutus-based mid-Atlantic chapter of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.

“It’s just a great sense of community,” he said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co-op used to hang lights around utility poles in Arbutus, but that practice ended years ago, said Dr. Art Vail, who spearheads the business association’s decorating efforts. This season is the first that GABA is raising money in a concerted effort to restore the Christmas lights, Plowman said.

The business association features a calendar of Christmas events in the town on its website. Santa’s arrival in Arbutus is scheduled for Nov. 30, drawing upwards of 700 attendees “on a good year,” Vail said. The Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department is also seeking donations for its free 26th annual Christmas train garden, he added.


Plowman said the community partnership, especially around the holiday season, reminds her “how generous and how loyal” Arbutus residents remain to their town.

“It just makes you a better person” to experience “the true feelings they feel about Arbutus,” she said. “I think this year is gonna be pretty successful.”

The business association is accepting cash or check donations made payable to the nonprofit Southwest Vision Foundation. Donations can be dropped off at the association’s office at 5407 East Drive, or at Chesapeake Bank at 5424 Carville Avenue.