Just a Touch of Magic
Adrian, Michigan during the holidays is like a real-life Hallmark movie.
Snow coats the once leaf-covered trees, families gather in decorated shops and catch up over cocoa. And the community’s almost decade-old holiday tradition involves coming together to decorate hundreds of Christmas trees for the annual Comstock Christmas Riverwalk Event. So the city didn’t need a reason to celebrate. It didn’t even need a focal point – its residents had already decorated 486 of them. All the city needed was a place to capture all the memories made throughout the season and a photo op to give them a reason.
Adrian’s now-annual celebration began in 2014, when two-time former mayor Jim Berryman was in the midst of his second mayoral term. He felt the city needed something to bring everyone together around the holidays, and created the Comstock Christmas Riverwalk Event. His goal – “develop an event that anyone and everyone in the community that wanted to participate could participate in.” Now, community members from all across Adrian can pay for a Christmas tree in the park and decorate it however they like. Some families decorate together, some dedicate their tree to lost loved ones. One couple even approached Berryman to tell him about how they met while decorating their neighboring trees.
“I was decorating one in memory of my wife that had passed away, and she was decorating one for her husband who had just passed away that year,” the man said to Berryman. “We met decorating our trees two years ago and we got married this summer.”
One year, Berryman wanted to break the world record for the most cut and lit Christmas trees in one place. At the time, the record was held by the Hallmark Channel with 559 trees.
“We can beat that,” Berryman said.
Fast forward eight Christmas seasons since the first Comstock Christmas Riverwalk Event and it was time to spice up the annual tradition. It needed, as Berryman said, “something that makes it more special.”
And Berryman knew just what he was looking for.
“I was just browsing around the internet and was looking for something, a walk-through ornament. And Dekra-Lite came up and as soon as I saw yours, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, that's fantastic.'”
Berryman called and it wasn’t long before he was connected with one of our account executives to start planning.
Working alongside Nicole Santarelli, Berryman opted for our Walk-Through Ornament Selfie Station for the Adrian community to enjoy.
The selfie station comes with a custom graphic gift tag, so Berryman had the chance to select the message for the celebration. Adrian purchases décor for the Comstock Christmas Riverwalk Event with donations from the community. And since the Adrian Noon Rotary Club sponsored the special addition, Berryman and Nicole worked together to create a gift tag message that would work for the Rotary Club and the community. They landed on “Peace and Health” with the hashtag “Service Above Self” – Rotary International’s motto.
“It just fell in line with the theme of what this event is all about.”
Once the design was set, we packed everything up, shipped it to Adrian, Michigan, and the community took it from there. From placement to installation, the Adrian community had it handled.
“Since we put it up in the park it was the most popular thing that we’ve had in the nine years we’ve done it.”
There wasn’t a time Berryman drove past the park when there wasn’t someone taking photos under the arch – or a whole line of people waiting for their turn. Families took photos for next year’s Christmas cards and to show their faraway family members what they were missing in Adrian. One couple even held their wedding ceremony under the Walk-Through Ornament.
And it never outshined the true meaning of the season.
“The family trees still are the focus,” Berryman said. “That’s what makes the park special is everyone’s family tree is in there. … It was the right addition at the right time.”
When asked how he would top the Walk-Through Ornament’s success next year, Berryman simply said:
“I’m not trying to top the arch. The arch was just absolutely spectacular. … I look at it more as what can we add that’s going to complement everything else?”
Nine years after Jim Berryman planned the first annual Comstock Christmas Riverwalk Event, it’s grown into more than just an event for Adrian’s residents to enjoy. It’s a celebration that connects all facets of the community. The city departments come together to organize the event. The Rotary Club purchased last year’s Walk-Through Ornament. Students from the city’s three colleges help prepare the park for the trees’ arrival and organize the signs that indicate which tree belongs to which family or group. Local businesses even decorate trees with bags of gloves, mittens, scarves, and other things community members might need during the holidays. And families across and outside of Adrian come together to decorate their trees for the season.
“It’s turned into what I was hoping it would be.”
So when people ask, ‘Don’t you think Christmas is getting too commercial?’
Well, yes. We are a commercial Christmas decorating company after all. But in a time where the holidays have become so overwhelmed with stuff, Adrian reminded us that little cheer goes a long way.