BLUFFTON — Despite rainy skies for much of the late afternoon, the Bluffton Blaze of Lights festival went on without a hitch.
“Glad it didn’t rain. We were ready. We brought our umbrellas and everything,” said Annette Brickman, from Willoughby, who attended the parade with her fiance, Matt Lee, who was from Bluffton.
“I think the Blaze attitude, the Blaze spirit is ‘the show must go on.’ I’ve been in it when it’s been snowing sideways, and it was still a blast,” said Paula Scott, CEO of the Bluffton Area Chamber of Commerce. “You have to dress for it and take advantage of all the businesses that stay open late.”
The parade wound its way south down Main Street through the downtown, much to the delight of the hundreds of people lining the street for the 33rd annual spectacle.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were in the parade and settled in to talk to the kids inside the Bluffton Senior Center.
Many of the downtown businesses were open extra hours and provided discounts for holiday shoppers during Shop Small Saturday.
“You know, small towns really do rely on their local shoppers to come and support the community. Because then our dollars stay in our small communities or at least in Allen County,” said Julie Stratton, owner of The Black Lab Trading Company. “Our store tries really hard to find one-of-a-kind items so that if you come to our store, you’re not going to see the stuff you would see at the big box stores or in the malls. We support a lot of artisans and that also, in turn, supports even more craftsmen in our county.”
The highlight of the night was the lighting of the Ream Folk Art Display on the lawn of the Bluffton Presbyterian Church.
Farmer Harry Ream and his wife Dorothy started making and displaying Christmas decorations in 1938. In the mid-1980s, the Ream family donated 168 wood cutouts to the village. Dozens more have been added by artist Terry Mullenhour, according to information from the Bluffton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Two new wooden cutouts were added this year, one for Mullenhour and the other for the late John George, the town crier who was the master of ceremonies for the event.
“He was Mr. Blaze. He announced the parade for more than 20 years, recited The Christmas Story from memory for more than 20 years, and we miss him so much,” Scott said.
Each year someone is chosen to throw the switch on the Ream display. This year, Josh Kauffman, Bluffton Middle School principal, was chosen for that honor.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.