The Legacy – Light Up Lorain- 1996 – ?????

October 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm 1 comment

Fifth Annual

Antus said this year’s ”Light Up Lorain” promises to be the biggest event in its five years.

ED NOTE: Actually since the Morning Journal was part of the “1st Annual” event back in the day you would think they would have had a greater background knowledge of the who what and WHEN!!!! 😉

Photo Mark Teleha

Photo Mark Teleha

My rant in the post

as to the correcting event history of LIGHT UP LORAIN took me back to the “first order of business” for the then fledgling “mainstreetlorain” organization ( Not to be confused with MAIN STREET Program – therein lies another chapter) ).

I had met, at the end of 1995, with Al Kirchner (Herman Kirchner Furniture) and members of the Downtown Merchants Association. Charleston Village Society,had at that time, been a somewhat viable organization representing Lorain’s oldest neighborhood for half a dozen years. The merchants had decided to move in a different direction wanting to be inclusive of the abutting neighborhood, after all you can’t have a healthy downtown without a healthy neighborhood, something that still holds true today!

It was a few months later I was asked to attend a meeting in the conference room at the Spitzer Hotel. The newly formed “mainstreetlorain” interested parties were in attendance . I only knew two personally- Gary Fischer (Arkinetics) and Al Kirchner ( Herman Kirchner Furniture). I had, of course, heard of the other attendees that morning in the spring of 1996. I was introduced to Joel Kruek (Lorain National Bank), Anthony Giardini ( Spitzer ) Dick Gieonopi (Crystal Clear Cleaners) Scott Beyers (Jax Mens Wear and Endless Summer ) Mary Smith ( Morning Journal) .

I sat and listened, during that first meeting, as to how they wanted to form an organization, following a plan to promote the “downtown area of Lorain” . A number of suggestions were discussed including Gary Fischer outreaching to the National Main Street group as to recommendations, looking at funding sources and so forth, contacting the city, designating the area which would come under the “mainstreetlorain” umbrella, contacting the Koziura Administation as to the intent of the organization and to keep them up to speed. Lorain growth

Just before the meeting was to end Anthony Giardini stated : (I am probably paraphrasing here a little.)

If we are going to promote the business area in Lorain then we need a kick off event . I am sick of those tattered lantern decorations that the city puts up every year. They need to go and be replaced. We need to purchase new decorations , we need them to go along Broadway on every light pole, we need to have a centralized location and light trees in front of city hall”

Photo  Mark Teleha

Photo Mark Teleha

I am not sure who came up with the idea of Veterans Memorial Park, I think it may have been Al Kirchner , as the ideas were now coming fast and furious around that conference table, Gary Fischer was aglow:

“Fireworks!!! we must have fireworks, let us have the Mayor throw the switch, I will build the switch with a flash bang and when it is thrown the lights will come on that will signal the guys to light the fireworks , and the firework display will start.

There was some conversation about warning Mayor Koziura about the switch!

I know

Dick said “

hot chocolate, lets give away hot chocolate and cookies, candy canes

someone else said

bands, carol singing, the library has “characters, Santa Claus, wait let’s get the Palace involved, let’s have a parade….. what shall we name it?

– various names were tossed around – Celebrate Lorain , Holiday Lorain and it was Gary Fischer who said

“How about Light Up Lorain!!!”

and everyone agreed!

And there I sat – wondering what all this was going to cost? I didn’t say a lot – I had been down this path before, lots of great plans and ideas that came to nought.

Finally calm was restored and Anthony Giardini said

are we all agreed we will have the kick off event for the organization the Saturday after Thanksgiving?

I said

so that will be 1997 right

OH NO! it is going to be this coming Thanksgiving !!!

ERRRRRRRR do we have any money ?

No” we are going to have to raise the funds, we will meet next week.

TMC News photo  of the 11th  annual Light Up Lorain

TMC News photo of the 11th annual Light Up Lorain

In the meantime, Gary contact American Fireworks and get quotes, we will contact the city and get their thoughts and how this will work with their programs- Mary, talk to Kevin Walsh (the Journal Publisher) about publicity, Loraine we will need Charleston Village to act as our non-profit so donations will be tax-deductible, Joel talk to the bank etc. etc.

and off they went out the door leaving me somewhat dumfounded. I honestly didn’t think they stood a hope in hell getting this off the ground – you see it was already the end of May.

The next week’s meeting had the same people gathered , excitement filled the air, quite overwhelming my caution. There were some new faces ( Rich Robbin ( my co-chair of CVSI- I definitely needed a cooler head to back me up in case I had to be a negative! That idea went south when he agreed to be Santa Claus.

Vivian Alexander, was there representing the City of Lorain, she had come with the quote for the lights , with the discount it was about $59,000 dollars for the wreaths, holders, lights in the trees and standing decorations.

Photo Lisa Miller Lorain 365 Blog

Photo Lisa Miller Lorain 365 Blog

Gary had a quote of $3,600 for a fifteen minute display of fireworks. The hotel would provide the hot chocolate , Tom Boyer and family would man the tent with chocolate and baked goods and provide the tent! The Morning Journal would run a story, the Palace would be on board with Billy the Clown and a parade as well as the Lorain Police Department and Lorain Fire Dept.

Mayor Koziura would see to it the Street Dept and Chuck Camera and crew would hang the lights and wreaths along Broadway and in Veterans Memorial Park. Jimmy Dillion, from the Electrical Dept would see to it there was power in the park and at City hall. Lorain Public Library and Terri Fredericks would bring in “characters” and Frank and Carolyn Sipkovsky from Black River Historical Society would help liase with the museum , coordinating holiday displays at the museum and canned good donations etc.

The only fly in their ointment that first year was the Lorain City Schools thought it would be too cold for their choirs and band. However Clearview Band had no such problem and Bobbi Emery stepped up to the band stand ( literally). Elvis would entertain. We had a commitment from Alan Spitzer to pay for the fireworks!

We had our MC Gary Fischer who two years later was joined by his assistant Natalie Fischer although she wouldn’t be talking for a while yet 🙂 – the program for the night was set, the food, fireworks all seem to be in hand. BUT the nagging little voice kept saying

errrrr what are we going to light up because the “lighting vendor” wanted to be paid before they delivered and I didn’t have 59,000 hanging about in CVSI accounts


We were now in June- Once again it was Anthony Giardini

we will have a Christmas in July fundraiser at the hotel, Mary and Loraine you take care of decorations, the invitations etc. etc.

And so the fundraising started , there were afternoons spent at Scott Beyers’ store ( since he had multiple phone lines) calling donors , getting pledges it was a busy few months.

mainstreetlorain” had its first “member ” Alan McCartney ( SQP) Print Center, he more than paid his dues as I was always running in for “can you print this please….” It was well deserved his family became front page as they watched the fireworks on that November 30th night of 1996 and the 1st Annual Light Up Lorain!

Photo Morning Journal

Photo Morning Journal

The funds were raised and the lights delivered however to our amazement over 100,000 light bulbs needed to be screwed in , hundreds of thousand of feet of wire had to be stretched out , every display needed to have their bulbs attached. Frantic calls to Frank and Carolyn, their volunteers, the girl scouts, the boy scouts, the school kids, Alan Spitzer donated the hotel and lunch but due to hotel commitments it had to be done in three hours. The Spitzer Hotel ballroom and hallways were filled with wire , bulbs and laughter but the volunteers came through and they got it done in time .

There were some difficulties along the way even then, the test run saw one exploding reindeer in front of City Hall- and George Koury commenting

in every battle at least one soldier must fall.

I was concerned it may be the mayor and that exploding switch!

Photo  Mark Teleha

Photo Mark Teleha

And lessons learned – As the Fire Dept rushed to the scene during the fireworks extravaganza ( as we lit them on top of city hall- a place well known for fireworks”) the ensuing smoke was sucked into the air vents setting off alarms throughout the building- I do believe that was the 1st and last time for fireworks on the roof!

Since THAT 1st Annual Light Up Lorain Event the “mainstreetlorain” organization became Lorain Growth Corporation and has seen directors come and go, new committees have succeeded those of the original group they have added a great deal to the Light Up Lorain, Santa has a wife and a kitchen, window displays and more lights, there are bonfires and icesculpting planned, rocket rides but along with Gary Fischer the one and only constant from those days in the 1996 it is about celebrating the holiday Lorain style!

photo Mark Teleha

photo Mark Teleha

So you see when publicity for the Light Up Lorain event has been promoted as the first annual, or the 3rd annual and recently the 5th annual as the headlines last week; I took exception!

Yes! I had my own brand of fireworks going off because I can still remember sitting around that conference room table in 1996 thinking OMG these people are off their trolley this will never happen by November 30th 1996… but it did because they had a vision and a passion and a willingness to work together for Lorain!

Entry filed under: a Cow -elle opinion, Charleston Village, Christmas, city of lorain, Kudos. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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October 2013

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