PIQUA — With some of the best weather Mainstreet Piqua’s Christmas on the Green has seen in years, downtown Piqua was packed with community members and visitors to the area who came to enjoy the holiday festivities.
“It’s good, it’s great,” Lorna Swisher, director of Mainstreet Piqua, said. “We’ve had several years of really bad weather, and it’s such a beautiful night. And I think everybody wants to start kicking off the Christmas season, and they’ve come out to attend the event. We’ve got a really nice crowd down here.”
“This is our first time here,” Peggy Wiggins of Lima said. “I work at Edison … we have our grand kids here, and I’ve always heard about how cool it was, and the weather was good, so we thought we’d experience it and get into the Christmas spirit.”
Robin Dobbins, who attended faithfully last year during the rain, was excited this year about “the horses.” Streets surrounding the Fort Piqua Plaza were closed off, allowing for two ongoing horse-drawn carriage rides and two track-less train rides. Unity National Bank associates and management helped with the carriage rides.
All of the activities, especially the children’s activities, drew a crowd.
“Kid shop is packed,” Swisher said. The Mainstreet Piqua Kiddie Christmas Shop allowed kids to pick out gifts for special loved ones under adult supervision and within a pre-set budget. The majority of items were priced at $5 and under.
“We’ve got strolling characters,” Swisher said. “They’re having a great time. Children’s activities down at the library are absolutely packed. It’s wonderful. It’s a great night in downtown Piqua.”
The community caroling was the highlight of the evening and was held in the lobby of the Piqua Public Library following the Piqua High School’s show choir “The Company” performance. Tom Westfall and “The Company” led the caroling.
“I see a lot of happy faces,” Dan French of the French family said.
The French family, supporters of the event, organized an annual “Caroling on the Square” event in December of 1991, which has since morphed into the heart of Mainstreet Piqua’s Christmas on the Green. Before that, the family followed a tradition of neighborhood Christmas caroling for over 50 years.
“This started with my family doing neighborhood caroling when I was a kid,” Dan French said. “We met at my parents’ house … and we’d walk up and down the neighborhood, up and down Park Avenue, and sing at people’s houses we knew. They would come out and sing with us, or sometimes close up and come out and join us. It was a lot of fun.
Dan French explained that children and people of all ages joined in the neighborhood Christmas caroling. Children were also given sleigh bells to play with back then during the caroling.
“We all had a good time,” Dan French said.
“But after Dan’s parents died, we decided it would be great to carry it on as a community event,” Margaret French said, which brought about the first “Caroling on the Square.”
“We know that Marjorie and Al French would be so thrilled and delighted to see that the tradition has carried on in their name,” Margaret French said. Marjorie and Al French were the parents of Dan French.
“To have it extend from just a few families to the entire community would make them so proud and so happy,” Margaret French said. “It’s just gotten more and more special each year.”
“Mainstreet [Piqua] does such a good job,” Dan French said. Margaret French also agreed.
“Part of the whole thing is what will make an evening that’s fun,” Dan French said, commenting on the characters dressed up in Christmas-themed costumes like Rudolph.
“It’s grown over the years, and it’s just gotten better and better,” Margaret French said. “And we’ve seen more and more people coming together to enjoy the tradition. And for us, that’s absolutely wonderful.”
“I know my mom and dad would be very pleased,” Dan French said.
Dan and Margaret French also appreciated that the community caroling was able to be held in the Fort Piqua Plaza. They commented on the renovation and re-utilization of that building as being the impetus of a turning point for Piqua.
“It’s all good, and of course we are so thrilled to be in this facility,” Margaret French said. “We could not be more thrilled than to be in the preserved and renovated and reinvented Fort Piqua Plaza that makes us all so proud to be in Piqua.”
“It was the beginning, the harbinger, of all kinds of good things,” Dan French said. “Like the riverfront development, which is coming, and all the positive things that have happened in Piqua, which is wonderful. This community is moving forward in a faster pace than I ever remember.”
Other live entertainment at the event included the Gotham City Brass and the “After School” barbershop quartet.
Christmas on the Green was presented by the French Fund of the Piqua Community Foundation along with sponsorship support from Unity National Bank.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall