Holiday spirit on Broadway
Steve Shine’s Christmas on Broadway has the feel of Times Square, minus the aggravation.
Christmas music filled the air tonight as the crowds filled up Broadway Plaza. People milled picturesquely under the second story panoramic window that is Shine’s law office and the event’s VIP lounge.
Children waited in line to see Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus inside a small white tent as their peers hopped aboard a small Santa train, all on the same plaza where Prairie Farms personnel busily dispensed free hot chocolate, chocolate milk and egg nog.
A 42nd Street-sized stage was manned by Travis Walker and Taylor Morgan, two on-air personalities from 103.9 Sunny FM radio station who were eagerly handing out free Santa Claus hats.
The countdown to lighting the 45-foot Belgian spruce tree is the highlight of this well-timed event that features fireworks set off right as the tree’s 35,000 lights are turned on.
This year, the tree-lighting honor was given to Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, introduced by Shine along with Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry.
“He (Holcomb) believes in what Christmas on Broadway stands for and that’s strong neighborhoods,” Shine said in an interview prior to the governor’s arrival. “He’s wanted to come for the past three to four years.”
Shine’s office is at the “epicenter” of seven neighborhoods, many of them working class, he said. This being the 14th annual tree lighting neighborhood gala, the crowd of about 4,000 people was expected to be even greater because of the governor’s appearance, he added.
It was a first time visit for Ashley Welker who brought her 1 1/2 year old daughter, Hazel, and her mother, Cindy Schwartz, from Waynedale.
“I wanted to bring her for her first time,” Welker said, “and she likes cookies.” Hazel sat content in her stroller eating a sugar cookie with multi-colored sprinkles. Schwartz said she saw photos of the event online.
Brittany Boston, who said she’d just moved to Fort Wayne from Chicago, was in line to see Santa with her 4-year-old daughter, Alana.
Asked what she’d be asking Santa for, Alana wasn’t specific.
“I’m asking Santa for everything,” she said. Her mother said what she really wanted was a Barbie doll.
Patty and Craig Beyer were part of the throng looking out from Shine’s second story office, invited because it was their Belgian spruce erected in the middle of the plaza.
They hadn’t really thought about donating it, but the persistence of Shine’s friend, Richard Franke, vice president of the Fort Wayne Komets, finally convinced them.
“He kept leaving notes and calling about the tree,” Patty Beyer said. She and her husband planted the tree when their 26-year-old son was two. It was a four-inch sapling when the Beyers put it in the ground in front of their Winchester Road home, never thinking it would reach such a perfectly-formed height.
“I’m in awe,” Patty Beyer said as she looked out from the window on to the crowds below.
A few minutes before 6 p.m., Shine led his VIPs through the crowd to the stage, a line of Fort Wayne police on standby.
At 5:56 p.m., Shine took the mic.
“Merry Christmas, everybody!” he shouted. “Is everyone in the holiday spirit this evening?”
With the countdown just about to start, he made his introductions and then spread some cheer.
“We are celebrating you!” he said.