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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Hundreds of people turn out Friday evening to see the lighting of the Christmas tree in Broadway Plaza.

Broadway a splendor for sight

– The start of the holiday season also serves as a chance for the Broadway corridor to showcase its renaissance.

Hundreds of residents gathered at the Broadway Plaza to celebrate the lighting of a giant blue spruce tree and enjoy live music, warm drinks and the presence of Santa Claus and his wife. It is the event’s sixth year.

Attorney Steve Shine, organizer of Christmas on Broadway, said the event is more than just a way to share the holiday spirit. It helps draw attention to the improvements occurring along Broadway.

Because the event draws hundreds of people to an area they may not normally go, Shine said those residents will begin to see the area as a place to live, shop or invest.

“A healthy strong Broadway corridor benefits everyone,” Shine said.

Others along the corridor try to take advantage of the holiday event by sprucing up their own storefronts, according to Nancy Schoenle, of IntraScape, Inc. and the Business on Broadway Association. While the group is not an official sponsor of the event, she said having so many people visit allows them to see the changes on Broadway.

“I hear a lot of people say they are noticing a difference and the difference is very good,” she said.

Susan Wolff, 60, is a nearby Oakdale resident who said she and her husband, Roger, started coming to the Christmas event last year after getting married in the fall. She admitted she was a bit leery initially about Broadway, but she has seen great improvements over the years in making it a more family-friendly and quaint environment.

“It is coming more alive,” she said.

The couple attended the event with her granddaughters Leah Frazier, 6, and Allison Frazier, 9, and friend Tatum Howard, 8.

The Broadway business association touts nearly $1 million in improvements along Broadway in the past two years as part of the city’s facade grant program, according to Schoenle. Recent recipients include Mad Anthony Brewing and George’s International Grocery. The area is also getting new investment in a Subway restaurant next to the grocer.

She said she encourages other businesses to decorate in the holiday spirit to join with Shine in making Broadway a welcoming place for visitors.

This year’s event featured newly elected U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, lighting the tree with Mayor Tom Henry. There were also live reindeer and train rides.