Local holiday lights tour available virtually

Published 1:30 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

NILES — The annual Niles Dial-A-Ride Transportation Holiday Tour of Lights video experience is now live on both the DART website and On Base Production’s Vimeo page. The two-hour tour is condensed to show the brightest and most festive parts of the Niles area into a four-minute walk down holiday lane.

Charles Nelson, owner of On Base Productions in downtown Niles, was one of the few people riding the DART bus this year on the only tour staff gave.

“[Niles City Administrator] Ric Huff called me and asked if we could make it a possibility,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he was on board and worked with Niles DART to make sure they could get everything in order.

“What was super cool about it was that everybody at DART was so excited,” Nelson said.

DART driver Randy Pearman drove the bus for the virtual tour this year and has been involved in years past. Pearman also decorates his yard with lots of lighted, inflatable characters. His home is one of the many stops shown in the video.

DART Driver Chuck Leath and DART General Manager Kelly Getman-Dissette both rode along this year on the tour as well.

“I always enjoy looking at holiday lights. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t,” Getman-Dissette said. “We were just a few people on the bus, and we were able to keep our distance. It was really cool. There are so many more lights this year than last year, it seems. Maybe people are offering a little extra cheer.”

Committing the whole tour to film took two hours on the bus.

“We started in town and went down all the main streets of town, like Sycamore and Cherry streets,” Nelson said. “We went to Bell Road, and the Kennedys live out on Walton road.”

The Kennedys finish out the tour each year in person, with Bill Kennedy dressing up like Santa and coming out to greet the riders of the bus to distribute treats.

“I had my son with me, and he filmed with me,” Nelson said. “I sat on one side of the bus, and he sat on the others. Sometimes, we got out to get footage. He’s 12 years old, and I felt like I was a 12-year-old. It was super fun.”

Nelson said he had his DSLR camera, and his son used a GoPro, to make sure they caught as much of the tour as possible.

After filming the tour, Nelson felt like a virtual offering of the experience was something that might carry forward even post-pandemic.

“I think one of the things we are finding is that there is no reason we can’t do this again next year,” Nelson said. “There will be people every year who can’t go on the DART bus for whatever reason, or if you live out of town, and this is a little slice of home for them. We can take some of these things that seem like a loss, and aren’t normal, and really bake them into everyday life once we can do things again and just enhance it. When we can make everything accessible for everybody – that is truly what is best for the citizens.”

The Niles DART Virtual Holiday Tour is available for viewing on the Niles DART website, as well as on Vimeo at On Base Production’s channel.