Paralympian Calahan Young did the honors this year at Christmas on Broadway, the popular tree-lighting event in its 17th year.
Calahan flipped the switch and 40,000 lights lit up a 40-foot Colorado Blue Spruce in the middle of Broadway Plaza at 6 p.m. Friday.
Christmas in the Fort has officially begun.
Organized by local attorneys Steve Shine and Tom Hardin, whose office overlooks Broadway Plaza at the intersection of Park Avenue, the festive occasion has many of the trappings of a bigger city celebration – and it's only getting bigger.
This year, a larger stage was erected on the west side of Broadway beneath an enormous television screen. Athletes from the 2020 Paralympic Team USA who train at Turnstone led the parade down Broadway accompanied by dancers from the Fort Wayne Ballet. Young musicians from Fort Wayne Community Schools provided live music, part of the b Instrumental program.
Paralympians who led the parade included Zach Buhler, Daryl Walker, Sean Walker, Tyler Merren, Ignace Fernandes, Peter Mitchell, Bob Welder and Christian King.
As children jumped up and down, Santa arrived on a shiny red ladder truck courtesy of the Fort Wayne Fire Department and Brian Bauer, president of IU Health Fort Wayne.
The family atmosphere is what draws Adam Mildred and his wife, Shaunnette Mildred, every year since they can remember. With them were daughters Victoria, 14 and Hannah, 6.
“It's a family affair,” Adam Mildred said. He appreciates Shine's commitment to the community “and this neighborhood in particular.”
Shine is quick to point out that there are seven contiguous neighborhoods in the 46807 ZIP code. His friend, Michael Franke, one of several brothers who own the Komets franchise, went one step further.
“I've lived in the '07 all my life,” Franke told the crowd from the stage.
The Komets pay for the fireworks that go off a second the tree is lit.
Shine's Christmas party relies on sponsors who come back every year. Lake City Bank has been there since the start, he said. Prairie Farms Dairy hands out free hot chocolate to spectators. Mudrack Tree Service takes care of the tree, this year donated by Keith and Darla Baughman. Associated Builders and Contractors also pitches in.
Once the tree is lit, families stick around to talk to Santa.
Armond Dowdell and his wife, Gretchen Bruce, brought their four girls Friday night.
Alanna, 7, had no trouble finding words until she was asked why she liked the party.
“It's really pretty,” she said.