With so many of our traditional Christmas ceremonies and commemorations cancelled or curtailed into unrecognizability, it’s nice to know that one event will go ahead more or less as planned.
It’s the Christmas on Broadway tree lighting that happens every year in and beyond the plaza outside Shine & Hardin law office.
How is it, you might be asking, that this tree lighting can happen, and the portion of the Night of Lights extravaganza that is devoted to lighting the Santa sign cannot?
It has to do with line of sight, according to lawyer Steve Shine.
NO Plaza, No Problem
This year, attendees will not be allowed to gather in the plaza or congregate around it.
Instead, they will be encouraged to line up (masked and six feet apart) along the western and eastern sides of Broadway.
“Now that is quite different from the Night of Lights situation,” Shine said in a phone interview. “That is a mass of humanity. Everybody has to be in front of it. (With Christmas on Broadway), there is a straight line of sight directly from Broadway and Creighton looking south to the Broadway Plaza. It is quite visible.
“You can stand at Broadway and Creighton and have a clear view of the Christmas tree lighting and the fireworks,” he said. “So it’s not necessary for people to be gathered side by side en masse to view it.”
The 16th annual Christmas on Broadway happens Nov. 20.
There will be other changes that reflect the curious times in which we live.
In the past, the tree in the plaza outside the law office of Shine & Hardin has been lit in ceremonial fashion by a visiting (or homegrown) dignitary: Mayor Tom Henry and Gov. Eric Holcomb among them. This year, Santa and Mrs. Claus will light the tree.
Of course, there’s a way of looking at things that would classify Santa and Mrs. Claus as the visiting dignitaries who travel furthest to visit Fort Wayne, and if you don’t see things that way too, you’re a Scrooge.
Clauses dependent on fire truck
Santa and Mrs. Claus will not fly in on a sleigh. They’ll ride in on a fire truck.
If you are an adult, a fire truck might seem to you an incongruous conveyance for the Clauses.
But if you’re a kid, you’re thinking, “Well, if I can’t see a flying sleigh, my second choice would be a fire truck.”
When this particular fire truck isn’t conveying the Clauses, it does not convey water to fires.
If I told you that a person is more likely to find sushi on this truck than fire suppressant, you’d call me crazy. And you’d be right. But the truck is privately owned by the president of IU Health, Brian Bauer, who also co-owns the Asian restaurant Umi.
“He uses it for chartable reasons,” Shine said. “He has raised, over the past few years, over $40,000 by having the truck available for kids to get their pictures taken on and to take rides on.”
The Clauses’ laps will not be available for sitting during Christmas on Broadway, of course, but their hands will be available for waving.
And the egg nog and hot chocolate that is usually provided by Prairie Farms will not be served this year, Shine said.
Even higher fireworks
Not everything is being scaled back, however. Some things will be pumped up.
For example, the fireworks (sponsored by the Fort Wayne Komets and overseen by Melrose Pyrotechnics of Kingsbury) will have a higher trajectory.
“So they will be visible from a distance,” Shine said.
The tree itself will not be one of those artificial contraptions one sees elsewhere in Fort Wayne at this time of year.
It will be a 40-foot Colorado blue spruce provided by Mudrack Tree Service. The massive tree stand is being constructed by the Indiana chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.
A Yard Apart will decorate the tree with roughly 40,000 lights.
Other sponsors of the event include Sweetwater Sound, Lake City Bank, Prairie Farms Dairy, Trinity English Lutheran Church, and Umi.
Everyone involved with the event this year wants it to happen as safely as possible, Shine said. Christmas on Broadway will be telecast on WPTA-TV 21 for anyone who “has had any symptoms or who feels at all hesitant about being out in public,” he said.
The theme of this year’s event is a couple of lines from a song in the musical Mame — “We Need a Little Christmas! Right This Very Minute!”
In the musical, the song is performed right after Mame loses her vast riches to the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
This sort of cockeyed optimism in the face of long odds has never been more relevant.