Christmas spirit lights up during North Side bus tour

By Sean Barron


As a Western Reserve Transit Authority bus leisurely rolled through the North Side, 7-year-old Zach Holm changed his mind several times about his favorite set of Christmas lights and decorations he saw.

His final decision? An eye-catching potpourri of holiday cheer at a three-story brick home on Elm Street across from Wick Park that, among other things, displayed a lighted bright-purple flamingo, a pig and an assortment of candy canes, along with a gingerbread man and a sleigh with eight brightly lighted reindeer.

“I liked that there were a bunch of decorations, a lot of decorations,” the Youngstown boy said.

In addition to the Elm Street residence, Zach was referring to many homes he and about 30 other children and adults saw while participating in Friday’s fourth annual Neighborhood Festival of Lights and Decoration Tour.

The 90-minute family friendly and festive trip, which began at Heart Reach Ministries, 211 Redondo Road, was to get people in the mood for Christmas while touting the North Side, said Mary Ann O’Neil, a social worker and event organizer.

“I thought it would be nice for people to hear some good things about the North Side, and I hope to showcase it a bit,” she added.

O’Neill certainly was successful as far as Zach was concerned.

Other organizers were Councilman L. Nathaniel Pinkard, D-3rd, and Jamael Tito Brown, council president.

Zach, who is home-schooled and listed science, social studies and history as his favorite subjects, said he’s excited about celebrating Christmas with a large family dinner.

Also enjoying the bus tour were Zach’s 3-year-old brother, Nick, and parents, Eric and Jana Holm.

“This is like an annual tradition now,” said Eric, a web designer.

Many participants sang “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” Deck the Halls” and other popular holiday songs as they took in and were wowed by the colorful light and decoration combinations.

Examples were a two-story Saranac Avenue home with every window outlined in white lights; a Carlotta Avenue residence with its facade clearly defined by mainly green, blue and purple lights; and a Redondo Drive house with solid-red lights atop several bushes and white lights lining the driveway.

The bus also stopped in Youngstown’s Central Square, where riders posed for a group photograph in front of the 30-foot Christmas tree.

Along the way, participants voted for what they felt were the best and most creative displays.

Over the last several years, the tour has been successful in increasing many people’s holiday spirit, said O’Neil, adding that she’s looking forward to next year’s event.

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