FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The most wonderful time of the year begins in Fort Wayne with the 17th annual “Christmas On Broadway.”

This year’s celebration will take place on Friday, November 19, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Broadway Plaza.

The festivities will include a parade on Broadway, featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus aboard the popular classic 1976 Pierce Fire Engine. It will be led by members of this summer’s Tokyo Paralympics Team who trained at Turnstone, along with cast members from the Fort Wayne Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker and the Fort Wayne Community Schools “b Instrumental” program. 

Turnstone is a local organization that empowers people with disabilities to achieve their highest potential by providing comprehensive services and programs.  The “b Instrumental” program is designed to benefit students with access to music during their formative years.

The parade route will begin at Broadway and Creighton and will travel south to the Broadway Plaza.  Attendees are asked to line both sides of Broadway along the parade route and then make their way to the Broadway Plaza, where Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be handing out Santa hats and stockings to all of the children in attendance. 

The spectacular 40-foot Colorado Blue Spruce tree will be lit by participants in the Tokyo Paralympics Games who trained at Turnstone. Along with the tree lighting will be a brilliant fireworks display on the Broadway Plaza, located in the heart of the “07” neighborhood, which is in front of the Shine & Hardin Building. 

This year’s tree has been donated by Keith and Darla Baughman of Fort Wayne. The Baughmans planted the tree in their front yard in the mid 1980s, when it was less than four feet tall.  The majestic Blue Spruce has grown to 40 feet tall and will cast a magnificent presence over the plaza. 

Thanks to the renovations made earlier this year to the fountain on the Broadway Plaza, the computer program that controls the multiple colorized patterns for the fountain during the spring, summer and fall will also allow for a variety of lighting displays each evening when the tree is lit.

“From its inception 17 years ago when a mere 150 people gathered to view the lighting to the crowds which now are in the thousands, we are proud to continue the tradition of this family-oriented event which marks the official beginning of the Fort Wayne holiday season,” said law partners Steve Shine and Tom Hardin of Shine & Hardin, LLP, the creators and organizers of this event.

Each year, Mudrack Tree Services places the tree into its secure position: a large Christmas tree stand constructed by crews assembled by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. – Indiana/Kentucky Chapter. Electrical service to the tree is supplied by Custom Control and Machine, with the tree itself decorated by A Yard Apart. Other grounds preparation will be undertaken by Vision Scapes.  

This year, the Christmas tree will be lowered into place on Monday morning, November 15, at 5:30 a.m. Throughout the week of November 15 crews from A Yard Apart will be placing the 40,000 lights upon the tree and readying the plaza for the anticipated thousands of spectators.

Joining the long-time corporate sponsors this year will be Indiana’s largest health care network, IU Health.  The Fort Wayne Komets- ECHL Kelly Cup winners- will underwrite the costs of the fireworks display and join the other corporate sponsors, which include Lake City Bank, Chuck and Lisa Surack of Sweetwater, Prairie Farms Dairy and Trinity English Lutheran Church, all of whom have come together to present this holiday gift to the community.

Brian Bauer, President of IU Health Fort Wayne and the owner of the fire engine being featured in the parade, expressed delight that both he personally and IU Health could make the holidays brighter for those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays outside of their neighborhood. “We wish to make the holidays as happy as possible for those throughout Northeast Indiana and our participation in Christmas on Broadway helps us reach that goal.”

Radio station WOWO (1190AM/107.5FM) will kick off its 74th Annual Penny Pitch on the Pat Miller Show beginning at 3:00 p.m. on the afternoon of the tree lighting, broadcasting live from the plaza. Penny Pitch is the longest-running local charity that benefits area families.

Gary Erdos, Senior Pastor of Trinity English Lutheran Church, commented that being involved with Christmas on Broadway helps brighten the holidays for the community. “Through its long history Trinity English has been a leader in the Fort Wayne community through its music and arts programs, children and youth ministries, and benevolent outreach. Trinity English continues to be a dynamic, lively parish, willing to commit its vast resources to the work of spiritual growth of its people and the greater welfare of the city we call our home,” said Pastor Erdos.

“There is nothing more spectacular than traveling on Broadway each holiday season to see the wonder and enchantment that the sparkling lights on the Christmas tree bring to the seven neighborhoods which border the Broadway Plaza,” Shine & Hardin said. The seven neighborhoods are the Creighton-Home, Historic South Wayne, Historic Oakdale, Fairfield, Illsley Place, Williams-Woodland and West Rudisill. 

“Christmas on Broadway, like the Fort Wayne Komets, has become a holiday tradition, wherein family, friends and neighbors gather in a neighborhood setting to enjoy the wonderment of Fort Wayne’s largest natural Christmas tree,” said Michael and Richard Franke, members of the Franke family who own the Fort Wayne Komets. “The Komets are proud to be a part of this event which symbolizes the unity and spirit of our community.” The Fort Wayne Komets are sponsoring the fireworks portion of the tree lighting event, with both the Christmas Tree and the fireworks being lit simultaneously, in a spectacular display of vivid colors illuminating the sky.

The Broadway Plaza is located at the mid-point of the Broadway Corridor, the latter of which has become Fort Wayne’s premier street corridor. The Broadway Corridor claims this title as being home to the largest neighborhood redevelopment project in the city’s history: the Electric Works. 

Shine and Hardin stated, however, that the most important element of the Broadway Corridor are the thousands of families who call it home, choosing to have their residences in this thriving neighborhood.

Shine and Hardin also lauded Chuck and Lisa Surack of Sweetwater for their significant financial contributions to the revived Quimby Village, home to The Clyde and adjoining Club Room. Their substantial monetary commitment to the south end of the Broadway Corridor has helped make the surrounding neighborhoods vibrant and has breathed new life into the urban community.

Attendees at Christmas on Broadway will be treated to holiday beverages provided by Prairie Farms Dairy, which will include hot chocolate and eggnog. Santa’s reindeer will be present at the tree lighting, as well as the “Polar Express,” a miniature train ride for the youngsters to hop on and to enjoy.

“These wonderful corporate sponsors make it possible for families, who may not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday season, to participate in the holiday celebration right in the heart of their neighborhood,” said Shine and Hardin.