The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 20, 2020 1:00 am

'Christmas on Broadway' alters format for this year

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Bring it on.

Christmas, that is. Or at least the related celebrations.

An annual event that has attracted thousands to Fort Wayne's Broadway strip each November will go on this year, despite a global pandemic that has forced the cancellation of dozens of activities.

But it won't be business – or let's say entertainment – as usual for “Christmas On Broadway.” Rather than gathering on the Broadway Plaza where a towering tree is the focal point, those attending the Nov. 20 event will be asked to line the sidewalks on both sides of Broadway, between Broadway and Creighton on the northern end and Broadway and Park Avenue on the southern end, a news release said. Broadway will be closed between Creighton and Park Avenue from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. 

Organizer and local attorney Steve Shine said the set up offers “a perfect straight line of sight” for those who will gather on the northern and southern ends.

“Keeping Fort Wayne's spirit bolstered and bright is why this year, more than ever, 'Christmas On Broadway' will be a beacon of hope for our community,” Shine and his law partner Tom Hardin said in announcing the restructured format.

This year's theme: “We Need a Little Christmas, Right this Very Minute!”

Organizers have initial approval for the event from the Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health and the city's Traffic Engineering, Shine said in a statement. But final approval will be subject to any further directives from the governor regarding large gatherings.

Even some outdoor events – such as the Johnny Appleseed Festival held annually in September – were canceled this year due to social distancing guidelines to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Indiana's staged recovery plan stalled in mid-July after an increase in positive cases following summertime holidays that often led to large gatherings, including some people who contracted the coronavirus and although asymptomatic can spread it to others.

Like the governor and state health officials, Shine will be watching reports about the coronavirus, which causes minor illness for some but severe respiratory distress and even death for others. 

“If the community spread of COVID-19 and the positivity rates increase,” Shine said, “we will adapt our event to comply with all safety recommendations. We will be able to pivot quite readily, given that this is an outdoor event. No matter what, the tree and the fireworks will be lit.

“Should the restrictions be lessened by the time of the event, however, we still will be asking attendees to engage in social distancing, wear a mask and, if anyone is not feeling well, they should not attend the event,” he said.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will travel a parade route atop a classic 1976 Pierce Fire Engine. The fire engine was decommissioned from a fire department in Wisconsin and was purchased in 2013 by Brian Bauer, president of IU Health Fort Wayne and co-owner of Umi Fort Wayne, a sponsor of Christmas On Broadway.

The location of the Christmas tree on Broadway was once the site of the nation's largest Christmas tree miniature light manufacturers, a news release said. The corner of Broadway and Savilla Avenue was once home to what became known as the Anthony Wayne Light Co., known nationally for making unique Christmas lights. Founder Anthony C. Mannweiler began his career in the electrical field at the old General Electric plant in Fort Wayne, according to a July 28 Facebook post by the local History Center. Trubble Brewing now occupies the building where Mannweiler, who died in 1928, started his business.

This year's tree lighting and fireworks display, which will be underwritten again by the Fort Wayne Komets, will be telecast live starting at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 on WPTA Channel 21.

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