Grant Hafley’s illuminating concept has become a new downtown tradition for the city of Cambridge.
December 2013 Issue
December 2013 Digest
The Guernsey County Courthouse lights up, the University of Dayton puts Nativity scenes from throughout the world on display, and William McKinley speaks (sort of).
idea first came to Grant Hafley while he sat on a bench outside the
Guernsey County Courthouse, staring up at the stately 1881 structure. It
had been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, but
Hafley had a different vision for celebrating the local landmark.
building is dramatic as is, but how much more dramatic could it be
decorated with lights programmed to holiday music?” he says, recalling
his thoughts at the time. “The project has completely exceeded my
His idea to transform the historic courthouse into
the canvas for an elaborate holiday light show initially sparked
skepticism among county commissioners. When they expressed concerns
about cost, Hafley, who owns the Cambridge-based radio company AVC
Communications, offered to foot the majority of the $50,000 equipment
Five years after that inaugural display, the Guernsey County
Courthouse Holiday Light Show draws both locals and out-of-town visitors
to downtown Cambridge every holiday season. The hour-long spectacle,
which runs several times each evening through Jan. 4, is divided into
It begins with kids’ favorites such as “Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” before moving on
to contemporary carols and then the instrumental holiday rock melodies
of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Each segment is accompanied by vibrant
blasts of color and elaborate light sequences.
“No one is taking the concept of lighting up to the degree we are,” Hafley says.
two minutes of music requires 18 hours of computer programming to
synchronize the lighting. More than 15,000 lights outline the exterior
of the courthouse, and the show features more than 58 individual light
displays including a 23-foot Christmas tree, which is made up of more
than 32,000 light bulbs and serves as the show’s centerpiece.
Communications general manager Joel Losego works behind the scenes of
the show, overseeing its 436 light circuits. “I’m a computer guy — a geek, unafraid to do a little programming,” Losego says of how he first
got involved with bringing the spectacle to life.
his initial proposal to the Cambridge county commissioners, Hafley was
asked how people would embrace such a significant change to downtown
Cambridge. Now, there seems to be few questions about the answer.
light show has had a huge impact on our small-town-Ohio community
pride,” says Jonett Haberfield, co-chair of Dickens Victorian Village in
Cambridge. “It has become a part of family traditions and has given people a reason to come downtown.” — Lauren Cohen
The free light shows run 5:30–9 p.m. nightly through Jan. 4., and run until 11 p.m.
Dec. 24–26 and Dec. 31–Jan. 1. Visit dickensvictorianvillage.com for more information.
University of Dayton’s Marian Library spotlights beautiful, intriguing
and, at times, surprising representations of the Nativity from around
Sheep and camels are common in the depictions of the
Nativity we’re most familiar with. But other cultures have imagined the
event in their own ways, at times including parrots, elephants and other
animals native to their parts of the world. The University of Dayton’s
Marian Library has a collection of more than 2,500 of these manger
scenes, called crèches, and each year the school shares a portion of it
with the public. This year’s exhibition, which runs through Jan. 26, is
titled “And Animals Were There.” We talked to the Rev. Johann Roten, who
helped assemble the university’s collection, about the stories behind a
few of the crèches that’ll be on display. — Jordan Gonzalez
Ultimate Frontier | By Jenny Miller
kangaroo lounges near the manger, an aboriginal man pays tribute with
his didgeridoo and the settlers, depicted as Mary and Joseph, appear
relaxed and worry-free. Australia has a history of conflict and strife
between its settlers, native people and its animals. Roten says Miller
wanted to show a convergence between nature, the native aborigines and
the settlers. “[It’s] kind of an ideal world,” Roten says. “It’s before
people start fighting each other, and [before] the separation between
the animal world and the humans.”
Painted Houses | By unidentified Ndebele women artisans
crèche displays the traditional artwork of the Ndebele people. The
scene, which includes a zebra and an elephant, is depicted in ornate and brilliantly colored beadwork. But there is a deeper meaning to the
depiction, Roten says. In the late 19th century, the Ndebele people
suffered at the hands of Dutch settlers. “They started communicating
with each other in and through painted messages,” Roten says, explaining
that the coded language could not be deciphered by the settlers. The
painted houses live on in Ndebele tradition to this day, although they
are now only for aesthetic purposes.
Diverse But One | By Fred F. Evangel
by Pacific Northwest Native American culture, this crèche reflects the
role the natural world played in Native Americans’ lives and belief
systems. The wise men are dressed as a frog and a beaver. At tribal
ceremonies, men would dress as these animals to conjure favor for the
hunt or harvest — attributing a sacred quality to the creatures,
according to Roten. “At the same time, you have some of the essential
animals like the polar bear and the moose,” he says, explaining that
those animals, as well as the seal, were relied upon for food and
Visit udayton.edu/libraries/manger for more information and exhibit hours.
Ohio Finds! | Fascinating objects from our past
1912 National Cash Register Machine
Patterson founded the Dayton-based National Cash Register in 1884,
after buying the National Manufacturing Company, maker of a patented
design known as “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier.” Patterson had witnessed
the effects of cashier theft during his time as manager of a coal
company store, with the establishment losing $6,000 per year — a huge
sum for the time. Patterson’s Dartmouth education proved beneficial, and
by 1911, National Cash Register had sold more than 1 million registers,
employed nearly 6,000 people and controlled 95 percent of the US
market. Although NCR relocated its corporate headquarters to Georgia in
2009, it remains an important part of Dayton history. Today, the
company’s vintage cash registers are highly collectible for their
aesthetic, as well as their reminder of a simpler way of life. But the
detailed embossing, elaborate keyboards and impressive cabinets push
prices higher than most other manufactured registers. This 1912 machine
features intricate embossing, a marble penny shelf and a mechanized
price display. — Amelia Jeffers
Sold at Auction:
Amelia Jeffers is co-owner of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Delaware.
3 Questions: Presidential Zeal
talk to Trumbull County resident Mike Wilson about portraying the
United States’ 25th president and his appearance at Niles’ McKinley
Memorial and Museum this month.
For 22 years, ever since an
eight-year-old boy told him he looked like President William McKinley,
Mike Wilson has been a bit of a character. Wilson calls his performances
as our 25th president and Niles native a “serious hobby,” and he is
always looking to learn more about the man whose visage appeared on the
now-discontinued $500 bill. On Dec. 7, Wilson will be at the National
McKinley Birthplace Memorial Library and Museum in Niles, where he’ll
portray the president as part of “A McKinley Christmas.” — LC
1. How did you first start portraying McKinley?
I moved to Niles in 1990 and was fascinated by the history and
architecture of the museum. I have a background in construction and
during the time of my initial visit, the museum was being renovated. I
quickly got involved and began researching McKinley and his life. It was
a complete accident how I actually started acting as the president
himself. [A] little boy pointed to the statue of McKinley at the museum
and asked me, “Is that you?”
2. What do you do to get into character?
McKinley was serious, not playful and rarely ever smiled; exactly
opposite of the jovial jokester I am. I have studied his speeches and I
try to carry myself in the way he did, changing the tone of my voice to
reflect his and show up more serious and less spirited.
3. What do you hope people take away from your performances?
I always try to provide something unique, spark intrigue and bring
history to life. I offer [a copy of] a $500 bill to anyone who says they
haven’t learned something new from their experience [meeting] me.
Get a glimpse of our 25th president’s childhood and see his
family home at Christmastime during “A McKinley Christmas,” Dec. 7.
Visitors will start at the McKinley Birthplace Replica Home before
traveling to the Ward-Thomas House at the Niles Historical Society and
then the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Library and Museum
(left), where McKinley impersonator Mike Wilson will greet guests. “The
hope of this event is to draw people back to the roots of this historic
town,” says organizer Sherry Rose. “[We want] to create an enjoyable
experience going back in time.” 12:30–4:30 p.m. Starts at 40 S. Main
St., Niles. This is a free event. For more information, call
330/652-1704 or visit mcklib.org.