LORAIN — Annual Light Up Lorain festivities include multiple events besides traditional fireworks and lights Nov. 30 at Veterans Memorial Park across from City Hall.
The event has grown significantly, according to organizers of the first event in 1996. Hoping to better promote downtown, attorney Anthony Giardini came up with the idea for the event.
“He was the driving force,” recalled Loraine Ritchey, co-founder and co-chairwoman of the Charleston Village Society, a downtown improvement group that helped organize the first event.
Architect and downtown booster Gary Fischer came up with the Light Up Lorain name and the administration of then-Mayor Joe Koziura provided city workers to help string lights on utility poles. Organizing began in May of 1996 and Ritchey said she doubted organizers would have time to raise enough money.
However, Giardini held a “Christmas in July” fundraiser involving local businesses which helped raise a sizeable amount. All together, $40,000 was raised and a $20,000 loan was taken out, Ritchey said.
Organizers are seeking to raise about $32,000 for this year’s event, according to Cheri Antus, chairwoman of the Downtown Lorain Christmas Council.
The event organizing committee meets from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the Charleston Coffee House, 610 Broadway. Antus said residents are welcome to take part.
Giardini said festivities are better organized now than in 1996 and organizers have learned from experience. After the money was raised for the first event, there were a few hitches.
A reindeer exploded outside City Hall during an electrical test run. And Christmas light bulbs weren’t attached to the strings so high school students were recruited to attach them.
Giardini said at that time, they gathered in the ballroom of the Spitzer Plaza Hotel – owner Alan Spitzer was a major event contributor – to attach thousands of lights. On the night of the lighting, Giardini recalled carrying free hot chocolate made in vats in the hotel kitchen at Broadway and East Erie Avenue across the street to the park for participants.
“It worked out great,” Giardini said. “People loved it and we had a really good time and it’s gotten bigger and bigger every year.”
Koziura said like the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the event brings families together.
“There’s a real feeling of pride in the community,” he said.
While the event helps local businesses, Giardini said a monetary value can’t be attached to it.
“It uplifted the community and got us back into the proper spirit of things,” he said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nov. 30: Light Up Lorain, 4:30-10 p.m. Parade begins at 4:30 p.m. at Broadway and West Ninth Street, moving down Broadway to Veterans Park at Broadway and West Erie Avenue. Fireworks will begin 6 p.m. at the park. The event will also include art displays, $1 horse and carriage rides, shuttle rides to Lakeview Park and a performance by the Windjammer Big Band Orchestra at the Charleston Coffee House, 610 Broadway.
- Dec. 1: Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen and Santa’s Toyland, 3-7 p.m., 637 Broadway; International Tree and Train Display, Black River Transportation Center, 421 Black River Landing
- Dec. 7: Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and Santa’s Toyland, 5-9 p.m., 637 Broadway.
- Dec. 8: Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and Santa’s Toyland, 3-7 p.m., 637 Broadway.
- Dec. 14: Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and Santa’s Toyland, 5-9 p.m., 637 Broadway.
- Dec. 15: Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and Santa’s Toyland, 3-7 p.m., 637 Broadway.
- Dec 21: Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and Santa’s Toyland, 5-9 p.m. 637 Broadway.
- Dec 22: “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” reading, 6 p.m., 637 Broadway.