Santa and Mrs. Santa Claus arrived on a firetruck this year at Steve Shine's Christmas on Broadway to the thrill of socially distanced onlookers and children. Some of the younger people danced in the street awaiting their arrival and one young girl took to cartwheels right on the pavement.
“We love it, really,” said Sara Wegmann, who comes every year with daughter, Lillyan Wegmann, 9. “We're glad he's (Steve's) still doing it this year.” They meet up with family, and Lillyan gets to see her cousins, she said.
Christmas on Broadway, sponsored by the Shine & Hardin law firm for 16 years, still had the razzle-dazzle Shine brings to his events, but alterations were made because of the pandemic. The tree will stay lit through Christmas in the middle of Broadway Plaza.
The perfectly timed event went off with Santa and Mrs. Claus making their way from Zesto's ice cream store at Creighton Avenue and Broadway to arrive at the plaza just before 6 p.m. Normally, Santa would be greeting youngsters in a tent, listening to their Christmas wishes and handing out candy canes with the missus.
Twelve-year-old Maddie Dean, Riley Hospital's “Indiana Champion” for Children's Miracle Network, was waiting near the tree, ready to turn on 40,000 lights on a 40-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce.
Maddie replaced the usual high-ranking political guest as a “symbol of people overcoming adversity,” said Shine, who is the chairman of the Allen County Republican Party.
“We are trying to demonstrate that this is hope for the future in these extremely difficult times during the pandemic,” he said.
Shine corralled the usual six sponsors to underwrite the neighborhood happening that typically draws 5,000 people to watch the lights go on, visit Santa, sip a cup of free eggnog or hot chocolate and listen to Christmas music aired by a local radio station. About 200 to 300 people showed up this year, though crowds were urged to stay home because of surging coronavirus numbers.
Brittany Bright brought her six children this year, just as she usually does. She doesn't live far away. Even though the kids were disappointed there was no candy or Christmas hats, Bright said it was “understandable with everything going on this year.”
But Santa was reassuring once he joined the lineup with Shine and Maddie. “We will be coming to see ya Christmas Eve,” he promised.
This year, ABC 21 (WPTA-TV) broadcast its evening newscasts live from the plaza on the air and on Facebook.
Radio station WOWO also launched its Penny Pitch campaign from Shine's law office overlooking the plaza, with local radio personality Pat Miller broadcasting his own show live from 3 to 6 p.m.
The Penny Pitch beneficiary is Crosswinds Counseling of Fort Wayne, Shine said.
The tree, donated by the owners of Salon Concepts at Tillman Road and South Calhoun Street, was planted 25 years ago. Richard Franke, an owner of the Fort Wayne Komets, scouted the tree this year as he has done in years past. Fireworks by Melrose Pyrotechnics followed the tree-lighting ceremony.