When I think of holiday traditions, I'm taken back to the early '60s, when Mom and Dad took me to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to see the Christmas lights downtown every year. And if those weren't fabulous enough, Wolf & Dessauer department store had window after window of animated displays of Christmas scenes. Ask anyone that's middle-aged that grew up around here (northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southern Michigan) and it's likely that a bigger percentage of them remember traveling to Ft. Wayne to see it all, than don't.
In time, the store was sold, the lights were stored and I have no idea what happened to the animated scenes, but some years ago, the lighting was brought out of storage and on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, those lights are now ceremoniously lit to mark the official beginning of the Christmas season.
First, there's the Santa and his reindeer, which are mounted on the side of the National City Bank Building. The display was first lit in 1937, when it hung on the side of the W & D's department store building. The current display was recently converted from incandescent to LED lights, which means a savings of 90% in energy costs to keep its 24,717 lights lit.
Then there's the large Christmas tree that is mounted over Calhoun Street. In the 'olden days,' it was put directly over a downtown intersection on large crossbeams. That intersection was pretty special on regular days, too. At different times during the hour, you could cross the street diagonally instead of at right angles as you normally would. As a kid, I thought that was pretty cool. Now the tree is mounted over a crosswalk between buildings.
The other light display was a large wreath that also used to hang on the side of the Wolf & Dessauer store. Weighing 3½ tons, the wreath is 25 feet high and has more than 40,000 lights. It now hangs on the side of One Summit Square, the tallest building in Ft. Wayne.
I'm so thankful that someone saw the value of reviving these light displays and keeping traditions alive. Romie and I drove through downtown during the lighting Wednesday night, on our way to daughter Jenna's, where we spent Thanksgiving day. I jumped out of the car while Romie was stuck in all the traffic and I snapped some pictures of the festivities.
Christmas music was playing and the trees along the sidewalks were lit up with tiny lights and big shiny pieces of 'candy.' Hundreds of parents and their children were taking it all in and creating memories, just as my parents helped create my own memories - the ones I'm sharing with you now.
The only thing missing was some snowflakes drifting down gently out of the night sky...