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Today is November 25, 2020

50 Nights of Lights: A Delta downtown Christmas

By Steven Ward

50 Nights of Lights: A Delta downtown Christmas

The tradition started in 2016 with the donation of a 40-foot Christmas tree for downtown Cleveland.

Today, the Delta city celebrates a festival of shining Christmas lights that glow for visitors from Nov. 14 to Dec 31.

50 Nights of Lights will feature more than 100,000 lights that transform downtown Cleveland into a winter wonderland.

Becky Nowell, the wife of Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell, has been the mover and shaker behind the holiday event’s success.

“It’s definitely an event that has drawn people to Cleveland. It’s so heartwarming to watch people experience it and to see the joy the lights bring to people’s faces. It’s a wonderful event for families and children,” Nowell said.

The first full-fledged 50 Nights of Lights was held in 2017 and since that time, the city has had thousands of visitors attend the opening night tree lighting ceremony and visit throughout the 50 days, Nowell said.

The origins of the event stem back to an idea for downtown business owners.

A group of Cleveland women including Jane Dunlap, Clemmie Collins and Jo Beth Janoush started the downtown holiday tradition and encouraged business owners to put white lights in their windows and had white light trees installed on the city’s green strip. They dubbed the occasion, “Light Up Your Holidays” and expanded soon after to include rooftop lighting on downtown buildings.

Then, the Janoush family donated a beautiful, 40-foot tree downtown, along with many other lighted and animated decorations. After seeing the excitement over the new decorations, a committee was formed to expand on what had been started with the goal of making downtown Cleveland a destination place for people to come look at the downtown lights and decorations.

According to the city, the committee developed a plan to add white lights to the crepe myrtles downtown and to have a musical theme on Sharpe Street in the sections from Highway 8 to North Street as a tribute to Cleveland’s Grammy Museum, a Candy Land theme on the block of Sharpe Street from North Street to Court Street, and a train theme for The Depot and Train Museum block of Sharpe Street.

Nowell said local businesses, individuals and civic clubs were asked to purchase displays as a donation to the city.

50 Nights of Lights includes lighted Christmas trees, Santa’s elves, carolers, snowmen, candy canes, musical instruments, a train, reindeer playing sports and Santa Claus riding in airplanes, trucks and tractors, Nowell said. There is also a gingerbread house, a tunnel of white lights and a 50-foot poinsettia wreath with lighted candles anchoring the south side of downtown.

Because of COVID-19, this year’s lighting ceremony will be virtual, Nowell said.

The lights will be turned on Nov. 14. Visitors will be able to watch the lighting live on the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, as well as the event’s website, 50nightsofl ights.com. The live stream will start at 6:45 p.m. with a preshow followed by the lighting at 7 p.m.

COVID-19 will also prevent Santa Claus from visiting with children in person this year, Nowell said.

The city’s public works department, led by Public Works Director Ray Bell, is an essential part of the event’s success. Part of the department’s role includes constant maintenance of the lights throughout the 50 days.

“They have 160 displays to install. They started working in September and worked all of October to make this happen. We couldn’t do it without them,” Nowell said.

Visitors can walk through downtown to experience the lights or take a driving tour.

Danny Abraham, a city alderman and owner of Abraham’s Clothing, said the traffic 50 Nights of Lights brings to the city increases sales at his store but also represents “a remarkable event” that has helped the city transform into an important Delta destination.

“You walk outside and see people walking around and talking while looking at the lights and it just looks like a Hallmark Channel movie,” Abraham, a member of Delta Electric Power Association, said.

“It gets people in the spirit of Christmas, love and peace,” he added.

 

IF YOU GO:

Downtown Cleveland

Nov. 14 to Dec. 31

Lights turned on at dusk each day

Admission: Free

For more information: 50nightsoflights.com

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