By Hannah Schroder
Indiana Daily Student
December 2, 2003
With the flick of a switch, downtown Bloomington became illuminated by over 278,000 lights Friday at the 18th annual Canopy of Lights, the kickoff to holiday events in the downtown area.
From now until New Years, over 25 miles of lighting — when all the strings are placed end to end — will glow above the streets as part of one of Bloomington’s largest property management groups, CFC Properties, and the Downtown Bloomington Commission’s lighting show.
“We go overboard — everything is dripping with decorations,” CFC Properties, Marketing Director Roseanna Lester said.
Strings of lights are placed on trees and stretch over the streets from outer buildings to the courthouse in the center. The canopy has nearly 5,000 feet of lights; the buildings around the square have over 2,000 feet of lights and the trees have approximately 3,500 feet of lights.
Lester and Jim Murphy, CFC Properties President, said the vacancy of stores downtown several years ago prompted them to sponsor activities to bring more people to the area. Murphy said the Canopy of Lights brought 5,000 to 6,000 people to the area this year to take part in the tradition, holiday cheer and family gathering.
“It kicks off holiday tradition and holiday shopping and is a way of pulling families together,” Murphy said.
He also said this year’s Canopy of Lights was very well attended and the cold weather added to the festive environment.
“What made it special was how the temperature got a little cool, and along with the snow flurries, it really made it feel like Christmas,” Murphy said. “It was a true Christmas scene.”
The street between the Courthouse and the Fountain Square mall was closed to accommodate a stage where Polka Dot the Clown entertained the crowd and Bloomington Brass, Bloomington Pops and the Yuletide Singers played Christmas music. Local vendors sold holiday treats such as apple cider and roasted nuts. Mayor-Elect Mark Kruzan was one of the guest speakers.
Around 7 p.m., Santa arrived and the crowd counted down from 10 when the lights were turned on.
“When Santa hits the switch, the whole town lights up and it’s really spectacular,” Lester said.
Preparations for the Canopy of Lights begin in July, when CFC puts up all the lights and continually maintains them. Every three years, employees take off all lights and completely replace them.
In addition to lighting, CFC is sponsoring other community events at the Fountain Square mall.
Santa will be located in the Fountain Square Atrium area this Friday – Sunday, and after Dec. 15, will be available everyday through Christmas Eve. Photos with Santa are $1.00 and all proceeds go to benefit the Don Owens Fraternal Order of Police “Shop with a Cop” program.
Bob Nealy, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the program was started 14-15 years ago as a way to help underprivileged children in the area. Local schools, county law enforcement organizations and other local agencies identify at least 100 children every year in need of aid to participate in the program.
On Dec. 14, the Fraternal Order of Police will take the children shopping at Walmart. Members spend $125 per child; 99 percent of the money goes toward clothes, and the other part goes toward a toy. The program receives no federal or state funding, so all the money comes from donations throughout the year.
“As more and more people lose their jobs, more and more people need help; that’s why we’re doing it,” Nealy said.
CFC Properties employees are also offering gift-wrapping services every day from now through Christmas Eve in Fountain Square Suite 112. There is a minimum $1.00 donation and all proceeds go to benefit the U. S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program. A drop box is also available for new toy donations for Toys for Tots.
According to the Toys for Tots Web site, its primary goal is to deliver, through a shiny new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to needy youngsters that will motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens, and community leaders.
Murphy said CFC Properties collects a few thousand dollars annually for Toys for Tots.
“People like to give and there are some people out there who need to be on the receiving end so they can have a Christmas,” Murphy said. “Christmas is when people give the most.”
CFC Properties is raffling off a giant 8-foot-tall stocking filled with goodies to children 10 and under. Entry forms are located in Fountain Square and the drawing will be held on Christmas Eve.
Children can also drop off letters to Santa in a box located in the Fountain Square atrium before Dec. 15. All letters will be answered with a postmark from Santa Claus, Indiana.
“We feel it’s important to give back for the quality of life of citizens of Bloomington,” Murphy said. “We not only work in it, but we live in it. We want to give back to a community that gives to us.”