Surrounded by a large crowd in downtown Shelbyville, Santa and Mrs. Claus walked into the heart of the city Friday night to kick off the holiday season.
On an unusually warm early December evening, the City of Shelbyville showed off its nearly complete downtown redevelopment project that has taken three years to finish.
After the vintage fire truck that was bringing Santa to downtown sputtered and came to a stop about a block north of the Public Square, Mayor Tom DeBaun and Fire Chief Tony Logan escorted Santa and Mrs. Claus through the large crowd to the front of the former Chase Bank building.
With a countdown from five, the crowd counted down to the holiday lights firing up. Santa and Mrs. Claus then headed into the Chase Bank building to meet with children.
The renovated 100-year-old Julius Joseph Fountain is now surrounded by lights illuminating downtown businesses open on a Friday night and welcoming local residents back to the Public Square.
“What I see is literally hundreds if not thousands of people down here enjoying themselves, smiling and enjoying the environment,” said DeBaun after leaving Santa and Mrs. Claus to talk with the children. “There are kids playing in the grass in the plaza. Everybody is enjoying the space exactly the way we intended it to be enjoyed.
“I’ve been doing the parade since 2001, so for 20 years of experience minus the COVID year (2020), 19 years of experience and this is the biggest one I’ve seen. Everybody is happy and smiling and utilizing the space just like we said they would.”
Residents started gathering downtown at 5 p.m. Friday as the Mistletoe Market and the temporary ice skating rink opened for business. Carriage rides circled the downtown area as people arrived to enjoy the holiday season.
The parade departed the Porter Center north of the Public Square at 7 p.m. and worked its way into the downtown area.
A rolling calliope, cars and trucks full of scouts and princesses, jeeps and large trucks adorned with lights, and the Shelbyville marching band all showed up to celebrate in downtown Shelbyville.
The downtown redevelopment project started in 2019 along East Washington Street then rolled into 2020 where West Washington Street was modernized and a downtown parking garage started to rise. Work within the Public Square also commenced in 2020 with the bulk of the above ground work completed in 2021.
Workers spent Friday morning cleaning up to move out and let local residents enjoy the fruits of their labor. And downtown businesses opened their doors for the foot traffic that was readily interested in revisiting the downtown area.
“The businesses have been very patient. They have put up with a lot the last two years and we are really grateful to them for hanging in,” said DeBaun. “The good news is, I had two potential businesses looking at a building downtown that came tonight just to see this event. I met with them early this evening and they were amazed with what we’ve done here. We show very well and all our businesses are starting to thrive and we are meeting with new prospective tenants regularly.”
There were issues with crowding along the parade route, especially at the right turn off North Harrison Street to West Washington Street. DeBaun admitted last month that the first major downtown event in two years was a “test” event for the logistics of a new look downtown.
“Those are things we will talk about,” said DeBaun. “We will have a debrief in the next couple of weeks. It’s new with this space and we will figure it out. All things considered, it went really well.”