Dec. 4—As her 7-year-old daughter Charlotte smiled and peered through a snowman-themed ice sculpture Friday evening, Kayla Hartle of Meadville snapped a picture.
The ice sculpture, one of 38 lining Diamond Park and nearby downtown streets, was designed with such moments in mind: Where the head would normally be on the kid-sized snowman sculpture was a ring of ice that invited photo opportunities.
The moment on the Chestnut Street sidewalk, in front of a brightly lit Tattered Corners New & Used Bookstore, was a brief one, and it came as other pedestrians made their way around, some venturing into the temporarily closed roadway, others remaining on the sidewalk out of habit.
It was a brief moment, but it was also exactly the kind of scene that the organizers of Light Up Night 2021 were hoping for.
The Hartles' spirit on the occasion was also precisely what organizers had in mind.
"We love this town," Kayla Hartle said in a boisterous voice. "Chestnut Street is our go-to."
Charlotte shared her mother's enthusiasm, quickly listing her favorite downtown destinations when mom asked.
"The Chalk Shop," Charlotte said, "and the Green Shoppe."
The Hartles were among many people who filled the downtown streets from Diamond Park to the Downtown Mall for the annual tree lighting event accompanied by extended hours for many shops.
When Santa Claus entered the Diamond Park gazebo shortly after 6 p.m. for the tree lighting, he greeted a crowd that the Tribune estimated at more than 500 people. When he departed a short time later, many in that crowd quickly made their way west down Chestnut Street, filling restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries along the way.
It was the kind of scene that puts small business owners in the holiday spirit, according to Heather Fish, president of the Meadville Independent Business Alliance and owner of Hatch Hollow, the combination co-working space, art gallery and fine art supplies store that will take over the current location of Meadville Fine Arts in the new year.
Fish, who spent much of the evening welcoming members of the crowd as they arrived at Meadville Fine Arts, said good spirits had been building all afternoon.
"I thought it was especially cool when we were delivering the ice sculptures," she continued. "Just how happy the business owners were to see the sculpture they picked out — people were really excited."
The positivity was also evident in the steady stream of visitors to many of the stores on Chestnut Street, according to Fish.
Some of that spirit was likely due to the free cookies available at many of the participating stores, but other ingredients contributed as well.
Mayor-elect Jaime Kinder addressed the feeling in brief remarks to the Diamond Park crowd just before Santa's arrival. Kinder, making her first public remarks in her new role, was invited to speak by Mayor LeRoy Stearns, whose Light Up Night proclamation moments before was likely his final such ceremonial duty in office.
"Just look around and see what Meadville is doing. Look how cool this place is," Kinder said. "Look at our town growing. Just looking around makes me excited to be able to serve."
Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.