With Thanksgiving meals from yesterday digesting and credit cards maxed out from all the black Friday deals, hundreds, maybe thousands, made their way to Fountain Square to officially kick off the holiday's in the Queen City. Marking the second year of the "new" Fountain Square, a massive, generously donated, Blue Spruce tree on the square's Southwest corner prepared to become host to a large light display and the start of Cincinnati's holiday celebration.
I arrived downtown right around five o clock to find a full Fountain Square Garage. After fighting for a parking space at the city lot on Sixth and Race St., I made my way to the square, camera in hand. Despite the unusually warm weather, the scene tonight at Fountain Square looked like a scene straight out of "A Christmas Story." You know, the scene where the family goes downtown to the Christmas parade and to see Santa in Macy's? There was a lot going on. Vendors selling hot dogs, hot chocolate, ice cream, promoting radio stations and even Cincinnati Bell had a booth down there try to sell their lackluster line up of pre-paid cell phones and plans for sub-par service. As with past years, the square is home to ice skating.
Almost daily throughout the holidays there is something going on at the square. (For a full list of events on a day-to-day basis, check out the square's official calendar.) It's really great to see this area of downtown filled with so many people and experiencing so much vitality.
I remember going to a Red's game when I was really young with my dad, uncles, and grandfather. We walked through Fountain Square on our way to Cinergy Field. My most vivid memory of the square was all the homeless people around. As I got older the area was always under construction and to see it now is a great thing. I'm glad to see so many people bringing their families downtown to enjoy the events there. The new Fountain Square group has done a great job putting away the stereotypes of the naysayers and critics who think downtown Cincinnati is a constantly dangerous place visit.
Prior to the ceremony the crowd was treated to a video on "The Big Screen" promoting the Rockette's performances going on at U.S. Bank Arena. Then they showed a video which displayed the history of Christmas ceremonies in Cincinnati. Old black and white videos from the bygone era's leading up to today's tradition. The ceremony began and the crowd was treated to carol's sung by "Team Lachey" of the television show "Clash of the Choirs."
At last year's tree lighting, the crowd was treated to Santa Claus repelling off of the side of the Macy's building. This year, he just walked right out on stage. More singing was followed by banter from Channel 5's Sheree Paolello and Q102's Jeff Thomas. The president of U.S. Bank (who sponsors the ice rink at Fountain Square) presented a $1,000 check to the Salvation Army on behalf of the company. Many in the crowd remarked:
"Coming from a bank, shouldn't there be a few more zeros?" "
"No, we bailed them out, that's our money, the donation should be on behalf of the American taxpayer."
Another member of the crowd remarked "That's a crappy Santa, too scrawny." Well, he was scrawny, but that's because he was no Santa. He was Nick Lachey, former Cincinnati resident and pop star, in disguise.
Finally after an a half hour of ceremony, Mayor Mark Mallory threw the switch and Cincinnati's tree came to life. With the holiday season officially begun, the crowd was treated to a display by Rozzi's Famous Fireworks and for many families, a new holiday tradition had begun, while for others it was just a really, really nice night.
While for many tonight was a night of happiness and joy, it should be noted that for many others the holidays can be a time of sadness. Keep in mind those in your life who may be having a tough time, or feel annexed by the holiday season. Despite the credit crunch, economic crisis and tough times, sometimes all anybody ever wants is to feel loved by the people closest to them and reminded of how much they're appreciated.
Have a great Holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate, and keep checking back here for more updates. Take the time this season to let those closest to you know how much you care about them. It'll probably be appreciated more than you could ever know.
-Ronny "Gordon Bombay" Salerno.