On The Beat 11/24

Light(s) up your holidays

There’s nothing better to get my Christmas spirit burning bright than a couple of annual “Happy Holidays” lighting events.

First, it’s the annual downtown tradition celebrated by generations, the Dayton Holiday Festival, kicking off with the Grande Illumination.

For those living under a rock this Friday, it all kicks off with the tree lighting on Courthouse Square, followed immediately by the Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular.

It’s the family fun event of the season with kids activities, rides, a giant snow globe and horse drawn wagon rides.

Also, the Santa Land Windows are back inside the Schuster Center Wintergarden pretty close to where they thrilled kids of all ages in the Rike’s Department Store for more than 70 years.

You’ll see and experience the wonder of animated elves, woodland animals, violinists and skaters. It’s just as magical now as it was then.

Also returning is The Tikes Shop, where your youngsters can shop solo with the help of sales assistant elves and away from mom and dad’s prying eyes.

I’ve been invited back, even with last years ‘incident,’ to help with the countdown of the Grande Illumination put on by our friends at the Downtown Dayton Partnership. I’ll be the guy on stage with the Santa hat on. Come say hi!

Sandy Gudorf, president of the DDP says it best: “It’s tradition, and a magical night guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit. For over 40 years, families have been coming downtown to kick off their holiday season.”

Next is another tradition where the Satariano family invites you and yours to their place for a Christmas lights display like none other.

It’s the legendary lights of historic Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio (which was, by the way, nominated in USA Today’s Top Ten Best Readers’ Choice for best travel destination).

This year—I don’t know how they do it—they’ve added more!

The lights illuminate the gorge, riverbanks, trees and the mill itself. There’s even a 100-foot waterfall of twinkling lights. One flip of the switch turns on everything at once. What’s that electrical bill like?

One of the highlights is the covered bridge light show. Its windows, roof, sides and bottom are covered in lights. Every hour, on the hour, all 3.5 million lights go out leaving you in total darkness. Then the bridge lights begin dancing to synchronized Christmas music that builds and builds until the crowd bursts into applause.

There’s a new addition to the covered bridge show I know you’ll love, but alas, I promised I wouldn’t tell, and for crying out loud, I don’t want to be on Santa’s naughty list! So I’ll quit while I’m ahead. You just have to come and experience it yourself.

“Our family is all about Christmas,” says Anthony Satariano, the mill’s owner. “My dad and I started this with just a few lights and now we have over 3.5 million. We enjoy bringing smiles and joy to everyone for the holidays. That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Also, the miniature village is a must see. It features replicas of many of Clifton’s historic buildings, a 1950s diner, a light parade going down the main street and two trains that traverse the village across a covered bridge an the mill race stream. On the outskirts is a drive-in movie theater showing old film clips, a frozen pond with ice skaters, a football game in progress and a country fair with moving bumper cars and a Ferris wheel.

Santa pops up through the chimney and afterward you can spot him in the toy workshop.

Speaking of, the antique Santa collection is another don’t-miss feature. It’s comprised of hundreds, maybe thousands of Santas big, small and everything in between, and from every era too.

The Satarianos also know how important it is to pay it forward and count your blessings, especially during the season of giving.

“We have some youngsters from Children’s Medical Center and their ambassadors come out and turn on the lights. They get such joy out of it and if we can provide a little happiness especially with what some of them are going through, then it makes us feel good too,” says Satariano.

A quick tip—I’m told by Clifton Mill general manager Jessica Noes that there’s plenty of room for everyone, but the best bet is to visit Monday through Thursday when there’s a little less traffic.

So there you have it—two great events that will cure any ‘bah humbug’ in your group.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!


For more on the Dayton Holiday Festival visit downtowndayton.org. For more on the Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill visit cliftonmill.com 


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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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