It would be hard to imagine Fort Wayne without Steve Shine's Christmas on Broadway.
For the 15th year, Christmas lights on a 40-foot tall spruce flashed and sparkled against a dark sky on Broadway Plaza, while people sipped hot chocolate, children whispered to Santa what they wanted for Christmas and holiday music filled the air.
Shine's impressive savoir-faire pairs politicians with neighbors, or so he says, and Friday night was no exception when Indiana's U.S. Sen. Todd Young – who is not from the area – came to mix with the local folk. Shine is the Allen County Republican Party chairman.
“Todd Young is here because he wanted to reach out to the people, working class, hardworking people,” Shine explained. “For a U.S. senator to visit the core of a Fort Wayne neighborhood in the '07 is an acknowledgment of the importance of these neighborhoods.”
Broadway Plaza where Shine's law office, Shine & Hardin, overlooks the small square is the “core” of seven neighborhoods in the 46807 ZIP code, Shine said.
Helen Burget and her daughter, Erica Burget, live in the neighborhood and have been coming to the tree-lighting extravaganza for several years. This year, they brought along 10-month-old Lorenzo Casiano and Mario Casiano, Lorenzo's father.
“It's when the neighborhood gets together, family,” said Helen Burget, who has never personally met Shine but remembers him from his television and radio days. Even though they live close to Zesto's ice cream stand a couple of blocks away, they decided to drive closer to the event because of Lorenzo's young age.
The weather required bundling up as the temperature hovered around 32 degrees.
Burget was hoping Lorenzo would have time to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as enjoying the tree.
“He loves things that light up and play music,” she said.
That's exactly what happens when the tree is lit at Christmas on Broadway. People pulled out their cellphones and took videos of the fireworks lighting up the tree, which glittered with 40,000 lights while the Andy Williams' classic “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” played.
Lamar and Melody Spencer brought their two children, Oliver, 6, and Micah, 3.
“Our friends were coming,” said Melody Spencer as they waited in line to talk to Santa. Their friends Daniel and Kathleen Lewis, with Tinley, 7, and Rylan, 4, waited just behind them. The boys seemed to want Lamborghinis, but Tinley said she wanted a Hoverboard.
“She's got enough dolls already,” Kathleen Lewis said.
Christmas on Broadway pulls in about 4,000 people and is sponsored by other organizations including Prairie Farms, which donated eggnog, Sweetwater Sound, the Komets, Lake City Bank, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Lutheran Health Network and St. Joseph Hospital, Shine announced on stage before he introduced Young.
“I can think of no better place to kick off the holiday season than Fort Wayne, Indiana!” Young shouted as he hit the light switch. Forty-thousand lights came on instantly and so did the music.