Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather, or maybe people were just hungry. Whatever the reason, the line for Coney Island was halfway down the block as people tried to grab a dog and make it down Main Street for the annual lighting of Santa and his reindeer Wednesday night.
This year, as in years of recent past, the event has turned into multiple lightings and been named the Night of Lights. This year included Aunt Millie's Northern Lights, the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Community Center Santa's Workshop display, the History Center turret lighting, Santa and his reindeer lighting on the side of PNC with Mayor Tom Henry, a Santa's helper, Wells Fargo's holiday display, Indiana Michigan Power's Merry Christmas wreath, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory's displays and animated holiday windows at the Embassy Theatre concluding with Parkview Field fireworks.
Surprisingly, there are still some people in Fort Wayne who were seeing the Santa display – put up for decades on the now-gone Wolf & Dessauer department store – for the first time. For Aaron Fording and Brittney Collins, it was the first time they had brought their 1- and 3-year-olds downtown for the annual event. Fording had seen it as a child, but Collins said she had never seen it; she didn't grow up here.
Then there were people like Ken Stirratt, who said he never misses it, although some years he has to come alone. His wife, Rosie Stirratt, uses an electric cart to get around. This year he rigged it with an orange caution flag and a blinking taillight so she could join him.
The Downtown Improvement District and A Party Apart provided free hot chocolate booths with cocoa served by volunteers from title sponsor 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, South Side High School and Hoosier Sports and Chiropractic. Downtown restaurants including Club Soda, Champions, Hall's Gashouse, JK O'Donnells and Toscani's donated the cocoa.
Judging from the smiles in the crowd, the lighting was a hit again this year.