For decades Fort Wayne had one significant community holiday experience: the downtown Night of Lights, a tradition that continues each Thanksgiving Eve with a variety of events and highlights that have become a long-standing family night for many years.
But another much newer event has become as popular, bringing people to an area of the city that has seen its own rebirth in recent years.
With Christmas on Broadway, the law firm of Shine & Hardin has brought holiday revelers to the plaza outside their offices since 2005. Steve Shine has seen its growth as it heads into its 15th year.
Thousands are expected
“When we held our first one, we had 150 people,” Shine said. “Last year the Fort Wayne Police Department told us we had 4,500 people, and this year we expect even more.”
One reason for the growth is the renewed focus on that area on Broadway, a popular place for artists and a very diverse populace.
But the event itself has also grown tremendously, something Shine is proud to share and credit their sponsors for helping to accomplish.
“We have a new sponsor this year, the Fort Wayne Komets, who have helped us improve the fireworks display,” he said. “Thanks to their financial assistance, there will be a big upgrade in the pyrotechnics display. We will also have the lighting of the tree, live reindeer, which are a favorite of the children, and of course Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there which is another favorite part for the children. We also have to thank Sweetwater which has been a major underwriter, and we really applaud them for their efforts. Not only does that help us with the event, but in the last couple of years, they’ve schedule world-renowned performers to play at the Clyde Theatre that night to really make it a special evening. Last year they brought in Tower of Power, and this year they’ve booked the Temptations which has added a lot to the festivities.”
IN person and on Television
Like many other events around the holidays, particularly those held outdoors, recent spikes in attendance have been helped by cooperative weather, which can be an obviously unreliable component.
“We have been very fortunate in that we have had good weather for many of these because obviously that has a lot to do with the size of the crowd,” Shine said. “If we have a nice night we tend to have an extremely nice crowd. Even if the weather is marginal, we always get a great group. If we get inclement weather, that can affect the entire festivities.”
For those who may decide to sit out for reasons of weather, fear not. Christmas on Broadway has you covered.
“People at home can watch the entire thing from home this year,” Shine said. “ABC 21 is broadcasting the entire event starting at 5 p.m. and going through all of their news time until 6:30. They will be live on Broadway, actually doing their news, weather, and sports reports live on site.
“And we’ll have some special guests. Last year Governor Holcomb joined us, and this year our U. S. Senator Todd Young will be on hand. And Mayor Henry has also told us that he’ll be there that night.”
Reinvigorating the Neighborhood
Shine is well known in the community, both as a lawyer and as chair of the Allen County Republican Party. His law partner Tom Hardin has shared his desire to bring more people down to the neighborhood of their law offices. Hardin, who began at the firm as an intern before he even started law school, came back to the office as an associate, then a partner.
In many ways, Christmas on Broadway is an appropriate community offering from the pair, one that reflects their interest in the community, particularly the neighborhood where they work.
Shine also credits the support, both financial and otherwise, from sponsors like Sweetwater, the Komets, Lake City Bank, Lutheran Health Network, Trinity English Lutheran Church, and Prairie Farms Dairy with helping them build an event which has become so beloved in the community and has allowed many to celebrate Christmas in a way they might otherwise not be able to do.
“Those six sponsors have really made a commitment to our community and our families here in this neighborhood,” Shine said. “This entire event is non-commercial by nature. They aren’t participating because their trying to push their brand or their products. They’re doing this so families can enjoy it. It’s not a shopping mall, and we’re not doing this to get people here to make purchases.”
Shine added that the respect that he and Hardin have for that neighborhood has inspired them to continue to grow the event for the last 15 years.
“There are seven neighborhood associations around here, from historic South Wayne to Oakdale,” Shine said. “And we really want to celebrate those neighborhoods. A lot of the families who live in this area are working class, and there are a lot of these things they might not otherwise be able to experience for the holidays because it’s beyond their means. This is a great way for us to get people together every year. In that way it’s very much like Night of Light because it’s just about celebrating and bringing people together. It isn’t about purchasing something. It’s about a communal celebration.”
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