CHAGRIN FALLS -- The Chagrin Valley Jaycees have volunteered their time, talents and manpower since the early 1950s to hang the Christmas lights and evergreen decorations along the streets of downtown Chagrin Falls.
This year's official "Lighting of the Greens" kicks off at 6:45 p.m. Nov. 23 in Triangle Park, with a short program and then the flipping of the switch that will light up all the holiday lights.
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Nov. 23 is also the kick-off of Your Hometown Chagrin Falls' annual Holiday Traditions program. That's where the Chagrin Falls Township Hall, located at 83 North Main Street across the street from Riverside Park, is turned into a Christmas Hall.
From Nov. 23 through Dec. 23, anyone can stop by "Holly Hall" as the Township Hall features a mini-tree silent auction, free Santa visits, holiday-themed train display, choir performances, children's gift store, free carriage rides and free cocoa and cookies for everyone.
Holly Hall opens at 11 a.m. Nov. 23 and remains open that day until 9 p.m.
Hall hours and Holly Hall schedules, Santa, carriage rides
Online ticket purchase and information on the Holly Hall 'Dream Toy' raffle information
The Jaycees start the decorating process the second Saturday in November every year. They work from pick-up trucks and extension ladders with hundreds of yards of evergreen roping and red ribbon, as well as attaching lighted, five-foot Christmas trees to all the utility poles.
This year, about 75 Jaycees took to the streets just after 8 a.m. Saturday, armed with the thousands of zip-ties, plastic tubs filled with strings of lights meticulously sorted by their intended location and miles of evergreen garland.
This year's sunny, 60-degree weather was a blessing, as they have performed their task in the past in the pouring rain, sleet, bitter cold and near-blizzard conditions.
They decorate the Stairway to the Falls, a stairway funded and built by the Jaycees years ago that leads down below the historic falls, and the bridge railings above the falls as well. Also decorated is the secondary viewing for the falls off River Street, reached by stairs next to Dave's Cosmic Subs and Jekyll.
The Jaycees also decorate the Chagrin Falls Shopping Plaza behind Main Street, the gazebo in River Run Park on Solon Road, the bandstand in Triangle Park, and the exteriors of the Township Hall, Village Hall and the police station.
New this year in the corner Bell Street Park across from the iconic Popcorn Shop at Main and Bell streets are trees with only red, white and blue lights, in honor of our armed forces and those veterans who have served our country and those troops still fighting.
Jaycee Pete Moissis came up with the idea and the trees are located by the veterans memorial.
As they have for the past 20 years, Jaycees Troy Young and John Kline are again co-chairmen of the annual decorating project.
Just after noon, they took a break and gathered at the Chagrin Falls Historical Society on Walnut Street where the Chagrin Valley Women's League, formerly known as the Jaycee Wives before the national Jaycees began admitting women in the mid-80s, provided a hot lunch of steaming chili.
The Jaycees hang lighted wreaths on the lightpoles after first decorating the poles with red ribbbon. The decorated lightpoles extend up the streets leading into the downtown, as as well the main entrance to the village on Chagrin Boulevard.
Another tradition is to have a gigantic tree donated by a Chagrin Valley resident cut down from their yard and set up in the middle of Triangle Park downtown and decorated. That tree doesn't arrive until the Thursday or Friday morning before Thanksgiving.
The Chagrin Falls Fire department brings over its ladder truck to attach the star atop the tree. Van Curen Tree Service donates its truck and manpower to cut the tree down, haul it downtown and then set it in place. The trees have been as tall as 75 feet but most are in the 50-foot-high range.
The late Art Newman, a Chagrin Valley Jaycee and the owner of the former Cameo Gift shop downtown who died in September 2006, started the "Chagrin Falls Christmas Lighting Fund," a group that collects private donations through fundraisers to pay for the annual lighting expenses.
The money raised pays for replacing light bulbs, new strings of lights, the evergreen garlands and the trees. Although the village could likely pay for all the decorating and decorations, it has been a longstanding tradition that the Jaycees, who also put on the four-day annual Blossom Time Festival over the Memorial Day weekend in Chagrin Falls, take care of the holiday decorations as part of their community service.
The Jaycees' Blossom Time, now more than 50 years old, includes carnival rides, free live entertainment, hot air balloon races, a Sunday parade and a 5K Blossom Time run.
The Jaycees donate the Blossom Time proceeds, usually about $30,000, to local Chagrin Valley organizations.