Sandy gave Akron its Christmas tree this year.
The superstorm damaged a 30-foot blue spruce on Sterling Jewelers’ property in West Akron. A company employee called Akron officials to see if the tree could be recycled.
Instead, the city decided to use it as its holiday tree on display at Lock 3 downtown.
Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth said three-fourths of the tree wasn’t damaged, and city employees positioned it — and the decorations — in such a way that the parts with storm damage aren’t as visible. The city already had picked its tree for this year but changed plans after learning of the Sterling tree.
“It’s cool that it was felled during the storm,” Lieberth said.
Sterling, which is again one of the corporate sponsors of the Lock 3 activities this year, was pleased the tree could be put to good use as the focal point of the city’s holiday activities that draw thousands downtown each year.
“We’re really happy to supplement our donation to Lock 3 with the holiday tree,” said David Bouffard, Sterling’s spokesman.
The unique origin of the holiday tree was among the highlights the city included in a news release Wednesday detailing its holiday festivities, which are scheduled to kick off this weekend and next weekend after Thanksgiving. The new attraction for this year will be the return of Archie the Talking Snowman. It had been a popular holiday attraction at Chapel Hill Mall for 15 years. The 150-foot sledding hill that debuted last year will return, as will other activities people have come to expect, including the lighting ceremony with fireworks and a parade.
The ice skating rink is scheduled to open at 11 a.m. Saturday, though a problem with the machine that creates ice has employees racing to meet that goal. The sledding hill also will open Saturday, with the first runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Other activities will begin next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Archie is back by popular demand after being retired from Chapel Hill Mall in 2004. A legion of fans used Facebook to call for Archie’s return, with one page gaining more than 6,500 fans.
Akron announced in August that Archie would be part of the city’s holiday festivities.
Ra’us Umana, an Akron resident who designed and built the giant snowman for Chapel Hill Mall founder Dick Bucholzer, is redesigning and building an 18-foot-tall Archie in the basement of the former O’Neil’s department store next to Lock 3.
He also is creating a streetscape in the O’Neil’s basement featuring the holiday displays used in the O’Neil’s windows in the 1950s and 1960s.
Archie will talk to children, just like the original, but will have blue eyes, rather than red. Umana told Lieberth that Bucholzer wanted Archie to have red eyes, but Umana always thought this was scary for children, so he decided to change the color.
Archie will debut at 7 p.m. Nov. 23, during the lighting ceremony. He will then be open for business from 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays, noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays through the holidays.
Akron received $82,500 from corporate sponsors —among them Medical Mutual, Chapel Hill Mall, Akron Community Foundation, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — for Lock 3 festivities.
The city, which makes enough from skate and sled rentals to cover employee costs,will chip in about $100,000, Lieberth said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.