First Thursday's December 2022 event lights up the holiday season

Canan Commons in downtown Muncie, Indiana, is lit up with warm festive colors Dec 1. This was a part of "LIGHT UP DWNTWN" as a part of the final First Thursday event of 2022. KwaTashea Marfo, DN

The motor of the Kiddie Express Train and its child-sized passengers hummed by guests as they roasted marshmallows by campfires. Phone cameras clicked as guests snapped family pictures, hosting Ivy Tech Community College's Rudy the Roadrunner and Ball State University’s Charlie Cardinal. Children waited and took their turns on Santa Claus’s lap.

The Ball State Code Red dancers, Masterworks Chorale, Muncie Community Schools (MCS) Elementary School Choirs and the Harmony Players all took turns performing on the Canan Commons stage. 

When 6:00 p.m. was near, Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour, Rudy the Roadrunner, Charlie Cardinal, Santa and his helper and more took the stage to initiate the countdown to the lighting — and the following show of flashing lights and synchronized music — of the Christmas tree.

As the sun set on downtown Muncie, Canan Commons lit up in holiday reds and greens with First Thursday’s holiday kick-off event called “LIGHT UP DWNTWN”.

“Merry Christmas, everyone,” Greg Wardlow, playing Santa Claus, said from the stage. “It's a delight to be in Muncie to share the evening with you. I wish you all the very best this holiday season”

The following show’s lights danced to an excerpt from “The Nutcracker”. Families huddled to watch as LED-lit snowflakes weaved in and out of the flashing holiday lights with each beat.

The sight of the tree and sound of its music bounced down through downtown, where attendees found themselves heading toward another part of the event. On the sidewalk of 220 S. Walnut Street, smooth holiday jazz from America’s Hometown Band Jazz Combo, with saxophonist George Wolfe and pianist Robert Wiley, filled listeners’ ears. 

According to the First Thursday website, the synchronized light-and-sound show that kicked off the Christmas season will be able to be seen again every Thursday- Sunday at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Inside the Open Door Health Services building, Muncie Makers Market — who also hosted YART for First Thursday’s October ArtsWalk — transformed the space into a holiday gift market. Moth Danner, Volunteer Director of the Muncie Makers Market, estimated there were approximately 65 different local artists set up within the space. 

“[Muncie] has a great arts and crafts community,” Danner said. “My rules are that you have to either be handmade, homemade food, or locally grown.”

Jan Haines, owner of Jewelry by Jan, was one of approximately 60 vendors present at the market. She has been selling her handcrafted jewelry for over 10 years, and has participated in Muncie Makers Market annually since she began her business.

“I love it here,” Haines said. “I like talking to people and making designs and filling requests for custom work.”

Throughout her time as a jewelry maker, Haines has completed hundreds of pieces in her studio. She enjoys sourcing the materials and catering her products to her patrons.

“[My favorite] piece I’ve made was with blue lapis,” Haines said. “I did a sterling silver back and I left the center open so you could see the fiery Australian opal inside.”

This year, Haines was joined in her vendor booth by fellow Muncie local Joan Fagan-Hoffman, who is an artist and photographer. Fagan-Hoffman happened to move into the house adjacent to Haines’  Jan. 2022, and the two have grown close via their mutual love for art.

“As an artist myself, when you find another artist you kind of cling to them because not everyone is in the same mindset as you,” Fagan-Hoffman said. “So I help support [Jan], and I’m so happy to help her with this tonight. We’ve had a fabulous turnout and I’m really impressed with the people of Muncie, and how they come out to support stuff like this.”

From local craft hobbyists or bakers to companies like Ohmugawd! Mugs and the Muncie Map Company, every booth hosted unique items promoted for gifting in the holiday season.

To make the gifting process easier, the United Methodist Congregation Community of Hope held a booth dedicated to gift wrapping, which also doubled as a greeting booth for guests walking into the market. 

According to the greeters, Tom and Becky Adams, Robin Stevens is the member of the church who presented the opportunity to the congregation.

Though Stevens expressed there were some rough edges in the integration of community involvement, she and the church were looking forward to the engagement the night — and potentially the next year — would have.

Stevens shared it was possible due to already having formerly known Danner, and that it was Danner who made it possible to put their gift-wrapping and greeting station front and center.

Those interested in attending the market can look forward to its return in January 2023. Shoppers should refer to the organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages for specific details and other upcoming events.

Later in the night on Canan Commons, the line of children waiting for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap shortened, and attendees came and went, but with the illuminated Christmas tree, the holiday spirit remains. 

Contact Ashton Connelly with comments via email at ajconnelly@bsu.edu or on Twitter @AshtonJConnelly.

DN Reporter Sarah Olsen also contributed to this report. Contact Sarah Olsen with comments at snolsen@bsu.edu.

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