If the heart of Christmas celebration lies at home with our families, it’s community celebrations that extend the warmth of our traditions into the world, as we share share the holiday spirit with our friends and neighbors. When the Christmas tree in Broadway Plaza lights up on November 16, it will kick off the 14th celebration of one of Fort Wayne’s most cherished community traditions, Christmas on Broadway, and it will bring forth even more holiday warmth than ever before.
“Christmas on Broadway has grown far beyond a celebration of the Broadway Corridor, which has become a source of pride for all of Fort Wayne,” said Steve Shine, who, along with his law partner Tom Hardin, first organized the celebration in 2005. “From the St. Joseph Hospital anchor position on the north end of the corridor, to the eminent development of the Electric Works in the middle of the corridor, to the rejuvenated Clyde on the south end of the corridor, Broadway has recaptured its image as a thriving component of Fort Wayne’s success story.”
Shine and Hardin’s wish to celebrate the Broadway Corridor has, indeed, grown as the corridor itself has thrived. The first Christmas on Broadway drew 150 people to its tree-lighting ceremony, but this year’s event is expected to attract more than 4,000 attendees.
Even the tree itself has grown. This year’s specimen is a 40-foot-tall Colorado spruce that’s a touch bigger than last year’s 35-foot tree, and the bigger tree will demand 35,000 lights instead of the 30,000 that adorned last year’s.
The massive tree was donated by the Craig and Patty Beyer family and decorated by A Yard Apart. It will be hoisted into place by Mudrack Tree Services and secured into a special stand constructed by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Indiana/Kentucky Chapter.
The tree is the centerpiece of a celebration that has evolved to be nothing short of spectacular. The kick-off event will also feature fireworks, visits with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a real live reindeer, as well as Polar Express train rides and other family-oriented activities. It’s such a big deal, in fact, that this year the tree-lighting ceremony will be presided over by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
“We are pleased to have Gov. Holcomb join the thousands of attendees who are present for the event, as well as those who view the festivities on television,” Shine said. “Gov. Holcomb’s participation demonstrates his commitment to our neighborhoods and families by being present to share the spirit of the holidays in the core of the city of Fort Wayne.”
The ceremony, which begins at 5:30 p.m. on November 16, will be covered live on ABC21’s 6 p.m. news broadcast. The station will also cover the raising of the tree beginning at 5:30 a.m. on November 12.
“ABC21 is committed to our city and understands that strong neighborhoods result in strong communities,” said ABC21 Vice President and General Manager Merry Ewing of her station’s participation in the event.
It’s a sentiment shared by many area businesses, and many of them are pitching in to make Christmas on Broadway special. Ellison Bakery will provide cookies, for example, and Prairie Farms will contribute hot chocolate and eggnog. Other corporate and media sponsors include Frontier Communications, Lake City Bank, Sweetwater, St. Joseph Hospital, Trinity English Lutheran Church, 103.9 Sunny FM Custom Control and Machine, Vision Scapes, Asher Agency, the Downtown Improvement District, and Gregory & Associates Insurance.
A new sponsor this year, Sweetwater is adding another component to the celebration: A live music event that aims to draw participants to the south end of the Broadway Corridor to continue the festivities after the tree lighting.
Tower of Power, along with The Sweetwater All-Stars, will take the stage at The Clyde Theatre in Quimby Village after the ceremony in Broadway Plaza, with doors opening at 7 p.m. for the all-ages show.
“We’re excited to compliment the visual magic of the tree lighting and fireworks with the incredible musical artists we’ll be offering at The Clyde that evening,” said Jeff Ostermann, vice president of performance improvement at Sweetwater and interim executive director of The Clyde.
As Christmas on Broadway helped build an ever-growing holiday tradition in the heart of Fort Wayne, it has also helped extend the boundaries of the community. More than a decade after it began, the event’s spirit now extends well beyond the neighborhoods it originally intended to serve.
“Not only have residents from the neighborhoods surrounding the Christmas tree made this an annual tradition, but so have families from all across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio,” Shine said. “Each year, as the crowd grows, so does the neighborhood pride up and down the Broadway Corridor.”