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A Vintage Christmas in Grand Rapids

Original article by: Garret Ellison of MLive 

Vintage decorations have started going up in parts of downtown Grand Rapids as a throwback to the days before Christmas shopping was something that happened in suburban malls or in front of a computer screen.

Filmmakers Teresa Thome and Patrick Ziegler of Fubble Entertainment have partnered with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Christmas Décor to revive original holiday decorations that adorned downtown streets in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

“It’s multi-generational,” said Ziegler. “Grandparents can go down and visit with their kids and grandkids and share with them things they remember.”

The team is holding an informal lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at Monument Park, where a Tree of Lights will be lit as homage to a similar tree that hung in the glass façade of the former Herpolsheimer’s department store.

Afterward, the gathered group will walk to nearby Veteran’s Memorial Park, where a candle lighting will take place — another homage, this one to the giant candle that stood at the corner of Fulton Street and Sheldon Avenue.

The new candle is 16 feet tall, said Ziegler.

The group will then head over to see lights hung over Jefferson Avenue, near the former Grand Rapids Public Museum building at 54 Jefferson Ave. SE.

The former museum facility will have classic light displays on the façade and Christmas windows honoring icons from past holidays.

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Ziegler and Thorne are currently working on a Grand Rapids-based movie project called “The Santa Hat,” about a young father who falls on hard times and comes to believe in the magic of Christmas through acts of contrition and forgiveness.

The film, set in the late 1960s, includes a fictional department store named “Herpolburg’s,” which is a reference to Herpolsheimer’s and Wurzburg’s, two department stores that flourished during another era.

Today, the building that was Herpolsheimer’s at Fulton Street and Division Avenue houses the Grand Rapids Police Department and state of Michigan offices.

The store, which closed in the mid-1990s after being sold, renamed and reduced in size, was beloved by many for a monorail “Santa Express” train suspended from the ceiling, which gave kids a bird’s-eye view of the store. Today, the train is housed at the Community Archives and Research Center on Washington Ave. SE.

Ziegler said part of the impetus behind the vintage decorations was to do something for the community while the movie is in development.

He said interested persons are invited to help them live-tape a mini holiday special at the Wealthy Theatre on Monday, Dec. 15. Taping starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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