BLUFFTON — The village of Bluffton kicked off the Christmas season Saturday night with its annual Blaze of Lights event, a tradition that has spanned 30 years.
The celebration featured a holiday parade, horse and wagon rides, musical entertainment, a variety show and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. New to this year’s event was interactive ice sculpting with Columbus artist Paul Ahrens. Children were given the opportunity to chisel out their own ice creations, and were able to pose with a sculpture of angel wings.
As is tradition, master of ceremonies John George recited the nativity story from the Bible. The event was capped off when longtime Bluffton resident Dennis Morrison flipped a switch to turn on the holiday light display along Main Street.
“It’s pretty special,” Morrison said of being chosen to light the ceremonial display.
Morrison has lived in the village since 1958, and he has been coming to Blaze of Lights since its inception 30 years ago. Event organizer Gennifer Akroyd described him as “Mr. Bluffton.”
“If there is something happening in town, he is volunteering for it,” Akroyd said. “He’s everywhere, and he’ll do anything for anyone.”
Morrison is a member of the local Lions Club and American Legion, as well as a volunteer with the Allen County Museum and chairman of Bluffton’s Festival of Wheels car show. Through the Lions Club and American Legion, Morrison helps raise money for local charities. He said his wife likes to joke that he doesn’t know the definition of the word “no.”
“Whenever anyone needs something done they usually call me, and I always do it,” he said.
Morrison said he feels a tremendous sense of pride in the village, and that he was honored to continue the Blaze of Lights tradition.
“It just a nice community and a great place to live,” he said.
For Akroyd, events such as Blaze of Lights help show residents from other parts of Ohio that Bluffton is “an amazing community.”
“When people come to visit, they fall in love with Bluffton,” she said. “We want people to come be a part of our community.”
For Bluffton residents, Akroyd said Blaze of Lights is a “family tradition.”
“Your grow up with it, and that tradition is carried on to each generation,” she said. “People come out because it’s tradition.”
To ensure the tradition continues, Akroyd promises that next year’s Blaze of Lights will be “bigger and better than ever before.”
“Every year we want to make it bigger and better to get people to come experience it,” she said. “We want to show people the best of what we have to offer.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima