Christmas in Loveland 2021

arrives this Saturday, December 18

By: Chuck Gibson

CINCINNATI, OH (December 15, 2021) – It’s Christmastime in the City. . . of Loveland this Saturday, December 18, 2021.

The annual celebration of Christmas in Loveland is back full of holiday fun for all the children young and old. There will be plenty of activities, old and new, to fill even the “Scrooged” full of the spirit of Christmas and good cheer. It already looks a lot like Christmas. This weekend will bring a winter wonderland alive with 2021 Christmas in Loveland.

“It’s the craziest event I’ve ever been a part of,” said Cee Cee Collins, President Little Miami River Chamber Alliance (LMRCA). “People come out rain or shine. I think it is awesome they came to cherish that event. It’s fun.”

The businesses all around Loveland put on their holiday best as a thank you to the community for their support all year long. That was always the message delivered by Martin Schickel each year while he organized the annual Christmas festival. Cee Cee Collins echoed that message about the event now organized and presented by the LMRCA. This year the table was set with a “Deck the Halls” community Christmas tree lighting event held Saturday, December 4.

I like that they decked the halls for us,” Collins said. “The tree’s up they got their decorations up. What we do is more of a celebration.”

Sign hanging above Historic Downtown Loveland announces the arrival of Christmas in Loveland (Chuck Gibson)

The community is invited to come out and join in the annual celebration all around Historic Downtown Loveland from 4-8 p.m. this Saturday, December 18. There will be music and dance on the main stage next to JackRabbit. The live Nativity will be there. City Hall will be turned into the North Pole where kids can visit Santa, see the elves and get candy canes. Carolers will be strolling all around town. Anna & Elsa from “Frozen” will be singing and greeting visitors. Radio station 93.3 FM will be playing holiday music and broadcasting live between acts on the main stage.

“It’s kind of fun we have a radio station down there,” said Collins. “We have our trolley. . . all things will be indicated on our map. When you look at the map, you’ll see the offerings and specials from the businesses.”

You won’t want to miss the free “Christmas Time” show at the Loveland Stage Company (5,6, or 7 p.m. showings). Everyone loves the Princess Carriage Rides. You’ll want to try Fr. Larry’s Funnel Cakes being served up by the St. Columban K of C. The schedule and location of all events and business specials are listed on the map shown here.  

This special celebration is a long-standing tradition here in our cozy community nestled along the Scenic Little Miami River – even if nobody seems to recall an exact year it began. Many recall fond memories of Christmas past with Jim Fierro’s Chestnut’s Roasting over and open fire. 

“I was just asked to do it by Martin Schickel,” said Fierro recalling how it began for him. “I said yeah, I’ll do it. I would go to Jungle Jim’s and buy 25 pounds of chestnuts. Before the end of the night, they were gone. They were all free. I was happy to do that. Being part of the community, I felt honored to do it.”

Jim Fierro famous for roasting chestnuts over an open fire at Christmas in Loveland for about 20 years. (Chuck Gibson)

Though Mr. Fierro has not roasted chestnuts at Christmas in Loveland for several years, he still hopes he can teach someone the secret and bring back the tradition – maybe even next year. One year he bought an extra 10 pounds and gave some away for people to take home. Then they asked him how to roast a chestnut at home. He showed them how to score it, told them the time it would take – in your oven about 40 minutes at 400 degrees! He says he could get a batch done every 15 minutes over the open fire grill at Christmas in Loveland. He remembers the year of the big snow and a young boy who enjoyed the chestnuts.

“I remember the big snow we had the one year and the big fire with people around it keeping warm,” Fierro said. “There was music, singing and I was roasting chestnuts. I had this little boy come up the first time he had a chestnut and then every time I had another batch ready, he would come up and get another chestnut. He remembered the next year and did the same thing. He was the cutest kid. He loved chestnuts. I especially remember that kid, he was cute as a button.”

Jim Fierro kept that tradition alive for 20 years. Martin Schickel organized Christmas in Loveland for about 20 years before handing it off to Cee Cee Collins and what is now Little Miami River Chamber Alliance. He has a lot of memories, but shared a couple of his favorite Christmas in Loveland past.

“One of the memories I cherish is Pastor Hounshell and dad connecting to put the Nativity on the lot.” – Martin Schickel, organized Christmas in Loveland for about 20 years.

The Nativity ready for the live players. (File photo Chuck Gibson)

His dad, William (Bill) Schickel connected with Pastor Bill Hounshell to create the live Nativity on the grounds next to  what is now JackRabbit and the fountain. The New Hope Nativity is a lasting tradition at Christmas in Loveland. Schickel remembers asking Jim Fierro to roast the chestnuts.

“Jim Fierro agreeing to roast chestnuts, that to me was a special moment; one that just added more to the authentic vision I was trying to create,” Schickel said. “To have a man of his caliber do that, and with his personality, and then knowing so much about roasting chestnuts, doing it year after year; that’s a wonderful memory.”

Schickel always held to the tradition of having Santa at the event.

“There could only be one Santa at the event,” he explained. “I did that just in the interest in maintaining the childhood joy of Santa Claus to make that easier on the parents. The Santa volunteers over the years were tremendous. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the bonfire, the people. It meant a lot to me to be able to help create memories for some of the other families.”

BFTeam Office

Santa Claus holds a special place in Christmas in Loveland. He’ll make his first appearance for the boys and girls Saturday morning in the Brittney Frietch Team office 9 a.m. – Noon at 102 Karl Brown Way. This will be Santa’s second year making an early stop, take photos with the kids, show off his sleigh and Rudolph.

No reservation required this year, just stop in and see Santa and his live reindeer.

“It started last year and the inspiration was there was no Santa’s at the malls anymore because of COVID,” said Frietch. “I didn’t want kids to miss out with not being able to go to the malls. Rudolph, his main reindeer will be there around 10 until noon.”

They’ll have lots of photo opportunities outside if you have to wait for your chance to see Santa. Frietch says there will be plenty of entertainment and free hot chocolate, inflatables, a life size sleigh and of course Rudolph you can visit with while waiting. This is no inflatable reindeer.

Rudolph

“Live Rudolph; like Rudolph from the North Pole,” Frietch explained. “Santa will have a helper with Rudolph at all times in a corral outside. I love that it is Christmas in Loveland with our small-town feel, festivities all within walking distance to bring some joy to the season. The kids are grateful to see Santa and almost every parent walking out had wide eyes and said that’s the greatest Santa we’ve ever seen.”   

That is a look at Christmas in Loveland – 2021, but Mark Bersani recalls the past when the North Pole moved into Loveland Canoe & Kayak each year. He says it was probably their first 13 or 14 years, while Martin Schickel was still organizing the celebration, they were the North Pole. He and his wife Robyn would decorate the inside of the building.

“Robyn would spend weeks decorating inside and creating this winter wonderland,” said Bersani. “We would have a chair for Santa – almost always donated by Bond Furniture. There was a train that picked people up in front of the running store, brought them over and dropped them off at our place, the kids got out, got pictures with Santa and then got back on the train and went downtown. It was a really cool destination and I think a neat experience. Even though we were on the south end of Loveland, we were the North Pole for the event.”

People frequently stop to take photos of the display created by Robyn Bersani at Loveland Canoe & Kayak (Chuck Gibson)

Definitely a dog theme at Loveland Canoe & Kayak (Chuck Gibson)

Over the years, they added characters to create that Disney-like atmosphere with something to do while waiting in line. It may not be the North Pole destination today, but Robyn Bersani has not stopped creating a winter wonderland with great themed decorations every year. Bersani says people still stop, get out of their cars and take photos. You can’t help but notice the doggy theme. There’s a reason for that. Despite the North Pole moving into City Hall, the Bersani’s have remained involved.

Santa & Mrs. Claus taking photos with your dog (Chuck Gibson)

“We thought, we love dogs and let’s do pictures with dogs,” Bersani explained. “We do it earlier in the day so people can get in and get their pictures taken before the big crowds come into downtown. It’s a fun event for us also. We usually put a little gift bag together for the dogs. People come and take their pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus.”

You and your dog can get your picture taken with Santa & Mrs. Claus from 1-3 p.m. Even though the route changed, the train that carried the kids to the old North Pole still runs today. Kids can ride the train up at the Loveland Museum Center as part of Christmas present. Jan Beller says there will be lots of activities for all at the museum too.

“The Children’s train will be running around the parking lot,’ said Beller. “The Log Cabin will be open with a roaring fire.”

You won’t want to miss features inside the museum with beautiful Victorian Christmas décor, international Crèche scenes from Grailville, and Richard Shaver running his traditional model train on the second floor. Entertainment will include music provided by Rachel Bierkan’ s Loveland High School music students. It wouldn’t be right to talk about the history museum without giving Jan Beller a chance to recall her memories of Christmas past in Loveland.

“I remember it when I was a kid,” said Beller. “They didn’t call it Christmas in Loveland then. The churches got together with the local businesses; they had a Santa Claus and they had a Crèche scene, a live Crèche scene. In fact one of my classmates played Mary in it.”

Victorian Christmas decor at Loveland Museum Center (File Chuck Gibson)

Beller says it was too far back for her to recall all the details, but it happened then, and it happens now. In fact, the transition from churches organizing it, to the City, to the chamber, Martin Schickel and back to the chamber over all these years is one of the things that Schickel finds most special about the true tradition Christmas in Loveland is. His sister, Elizabeth Robinson and her husband John Robinson helped out over the years. Some years John was the keeper of the fire.

“There was a young man from one of the churches who helped me,” said John. “He was there every time.”

Elizabeth shared a favorite memory of hers which just happens to be an absolute favorite of my own. To set this up, you have to understand she organized and coordinated the music acts on the main stage. I asked her if she could make a spot for me during a break between acts so I could make a special announcement. Here’s how she remembered it as her favorite moment at Christmas in Loveland.

“Your engagement. I thought of it immediately,” said Elizabeth. “That’s a great memory. I have a lot of great memories doing that, but that one stands out. I remember saying to you when you asked me if you could do it, I said sure. I thought it was delightful. I was like, Wow! It’s Christmas, this is perfect.” 

Then she asked if I wanted to do it now. I was not okay with right now, but she introduced me to the audience and handed me the microphone.

“It turned out well,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes you just have to trust in the grace.” 

It couldn’t have gone better. I proposed to Sue in front of what seemed like the whole world and, thankfully, she said yes. That was 10 years ago at Christmas in Loveland 2011. We were married in July 2012 and it’s only gotten better with each passing year. Kind of like Christmas in Loveland gets better every year. Anyway back to another Christmas past memory. This one comes from Tim O’Grady who, along with Kay Bolin-O’Grady and Missy McCormick started the Whistle Stop ClayWorks. His memory is a hot one, about 1,900 degrees. Maybe you remember the Raku firing of individual decorated ornaments. Tim remembers.

The Raku at Whistle Stop ClayWorks ready for firing (File Photo Chuck Gibson)

“We decided it would be fun if the kids came in and painted ornaments and then we would fire them that evening at a Raku firing,” recalled O’Grady. “The thing about a Raku firing is it is instant; virtually instant compared to an actual normal gas or electric firing. You get the results in about 45 minutes. It’s a quick firing normally done outside. “ 

That first year they made blank ornaments and the kids came in with their family and painted them. Then they could walk around Christmas in Loveland or stay at the studio and watch the firing, the loading and unloading of the kiln.

“When you open up the kiln, everything is cherry red,” O’Grady explained. “It’s about 1,900 degrees and very bright. It’s impressive to children and adults alike.”

The first year they did about 300 ornaments. It required a lot of internal record-keeping to ensure the right kid got the right ornament. The following year they had about 550 ornaments. It increased the next year to 625 and then again the following year to more than 700.

“It became so crowded, people couldn’t really get what they wanted with their design and artwork,” O’Grady said. “We decided then not to do the firing.”

The Raku firing was a fascinating enchanting process for the children and actually became a danger with the families and young children in the crowd.

“From 2016 on, we produced the blank ornaments,” said O’Grady. “We send the kids home and they can paint them with acrylics, nail polish, markers, or whatever. It’s still a memory of them creating the ornament for the tree. We have families who have been coming back for 11 years to get the ornaments. It’s a kind of a record of their child’s development and their experience at Christmas in Loveland. For me, it’s seeing the families together. When they come, we have a big bonfire, they warm their hands, pick up their ornaments, spend a few minutes to say hello and thank you. That makes it all worthwhile.”

It’s the smiling faces that makes it all worthwhle at Christmas in Loveland (File Chuck Gibson)

Christmas in Loveland: present day is this Saturday, December 18, 2021. Martin Schickel was happy to know so many hold such fond memories of an event that started before him and continues today.

“There was a Christmas in Loveland before I did it,” said Schickel. “I think it’s wonderful there’s been no gap; it continues uninterrupted since I was doing it. It is still a wonderful, much larger event. I would hope it will continue to have that hometown opportunity for the merchants to give back to the community feel. I consider it a blessing.”

Christmas in Loveland:

December 18, 4-8pm

This annual tradition turns historic Loveland into a winter wonderland. Your family won’t want to miss it. Carriage rides, business specials and samples, live nativity, live entertainment, choirs, Christmas cheer and of course, SANTA!

CLICK HERE for details from Little Miami Chamber Alliance and the sponsors