Festivities mark holiday season in Niles

Published 9:39 am Monday, December 6, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - During a night which was described as magical by many in attendance, downtown Niles came alive with lights and a bustle of activity as hundreds gathered to celebrate the completion of the downtown streetscape project and the beginning of the holiday season Saturday.
The day-long Niles "Holiday Homecoming" celebration came to a culmination at the corner of Fifth and Main streets with the lighting of the 30-foot tall Norway Spruce which was donated by Hunziker's Inc.
The night began in a majestic fashion as Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin arrived downtown riding in a horse drawn carriage with his wife and members of the Miss Niles-Brandywine court and Riverfest court.
As the mayor settled into his seat on the stage alongside other city officials involved with the streetscape project, Niles DDA-Main Street Promotions Committee Chairman Gloria Cooper welcomed all in attendance.
The group Cooper referred to seated behind her included Mayor McCauslin, City Administrator Terry Eull, Community Development Director Juan Ganum, Public Works Director Neil Coulston, Public Works Assistant Director Joe Ray, Greater Niles Community Development Corp. executive director Tim Batton, Utilities Department Manager Jim Lehmkuhl, Kiwanis Club President John Grinnell, and Niles DDA – Main Street Director Lisa Croteau.
Cooper introduced everyone on stage and presented them with a gift in appreciation for the hard work they put into the project.
Cooper first introduced Croteau as "the glue that holds this operation together. What a dynamo, Lisa Croteau."
Cooper then introduced Batton, the man who got the whole project started when he received a call in February of 2002 informing him that there might be some money for downtown if the city could find a way to create jobs and to create residential units downtown.
Niles was just one of seven cities to receive the "Michigan Main Street" designation from the state of Michigan.
Coulston received a unique introduction from Cooper as "the general who fought battles at every corner."
Before the lighting of the tree, McCauslin gave a brief speech looking back on the project and the changes it had brought to Niles.
McCauslin, Cooper, and Croteau then flipped the switch to light the tree as they said, "Let there be light."
The crowd then turned to witness the impressive sight of over 7,000 lights coming to life and illuminating the 30-foot holiday tree.
As the crowd dispersed, many took advantage of the evening activities which included horse-drawn carriage rides and extended downtown store hours.
Afterwards Ganum expressed his excitement over the celebration.
Tom Jones of Pioneer and Associates of Leo, Ind., the contractor in charge of much of the streetscape project, was also in attendance saturday night.
Croteau wandered down Main Street from business to business, reveling in the feeling of downtown being a buzz of activity.