Despite the financial strain of the coronavirus impact, the holiday spirit will persevere on the Ohio River's Purple People Bridge this winter, thanks to some local generosity.
Kicking off Friday, Nov. 20, Winter Nights, River Lights will illuminate the pedestrian bridge with 1,000 purple-and-white lights, a 25-foot christmas "wish" tree, projections and seasonal music played over speakers spanning the bridge.
Due to the pandemic, the Purple People Bridge venue was unable to host events, which typically contribute to funds used for holiday displays. Newport Southbank Bridge Company, which owns the bridge, typically spends about $10,000 annually for the holiday display. Because of the financial discrepancy, they had to make the difficult decision to cancel this year's light show.
But a Christmas miracle ensued. North American Properties, the team behind Newport on the Levee's redevelopment, and some other local contributors stepped up to secure the funding for the illumination.
“After such a challenging year, we knew we had to do everything we could to make sure we brought this beloved holiday tradition to life,” said Tom Williams, CEO of North American Properties, in a press release.
“Winter Nights, River Lights is a spectacular opportunity to magically illuminate Newport and bring the joy of Christmas to the community all while supporting a great cause. In the spirit of the season of giving, we can’t wait to invite the community to join us on the bridge and at the Levee for an unforgettable holiday season.”
The organizers have partnered with Greater Cincinnati nonprofit The Wish Tree Program to obtain this year's tree. The program connects with the community to provide gifts for individuals in need and social-service agencies. "Initially started in 1985 as a way to bring joy and happiness into the lives of troubled teens, the nonprofit’s mission has grown over the years to include gifts and support for disabled individuals and disadvantaged seniors in nursing homes," the press release reads.
The official tree lighting ceremony will kick off at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 with speakers Jack Moreland, WLW radio personality Bill "Seg" Dennison and The Wish Tree Program founder Bob Wetterer. The lighting ceremony will be led by Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso and Newport Mayor-Elect Tommy Guidugli. Due to the pandemic, the ceremony will not be open to the public.
“We’re grateful we were able to raise the funds we needed to light the bridge,” Moreland said. “North American Properties and the companies and organizations who stepped up this year to support the bridge are our Santa Clauses this Christmas season.”
The illumination will join holiday displays along Newport on the Levee's Riverwalk, and will be on display until Jan. 15.