By Dave Schultz
BLUFFTON – Bluffton will not have its traditional Christmas lighting ceremony this year.
On top of that, the city’s Christmas lights may not be long for the world, although they will be up this year.
That’s the word from Mayor John Whicker, the man who sarcastically called himself “the Grinch” Wednesday afternoon.
There are reasons for the cancellation of the ceremony, not the least of which is the focus everyone downtown has placed on the Parlor City Christmas celebration on Dec. 11. The lighting ceremony has been held for years in front of the Wells County Courthouse on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s featured singing and remarks from civic leaders, the turning on of the city’s downtown decorations, and the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire truck.
Whicker says the courthouse used to have a larger tree in front of it instead of the “Charlie Brown tree” it has now, and that takes some of the allure out of the ceremony. Downtown merchants used to be open at the time of the ceremony, Whicker said, but they’re not any longer.
The courthouse steps are also closed to public use, Whicker said, which means no choral groups can use them for performances at the lighting ceremony.
The city also has to pay overtime to have all of the downtown lights come on at the same time. City workers turned the switches at the same time at various locations.
Whicker and his administrative assistant, Brenda Jackson, have been doing the legwork on the ceremony. The decision was made to focus on the Parlor City Christmas celebration, a daytime event with vendors, carriage rides, and so forth. An appearance by Santa Claus could be a part of that event, Whicker and Jackson said.
The lights themselves are a problem that will eventually have to be solved by a fundraiser. The problem, it appears, is the incandescent bulbs used in the decorations.
“I ordered 10 light ropes and could only get four,” Jackson said, “and they said ‘that’s it.’”
While the lights will shine this Christmas season, there’s some doubt as to how long they will last. Dick Green, superintendent of the city’s Electric Department, estimated the decorations are 35 years old. And as Jackson was told when she tried to order more, the parts are outdated.
This article is made available through Hoosier State Press Association.