Longtime Bergman Field public-address announcer Kevin “KG” Gladden may best
be known as the successor to the legendary John “Jack” Werner and the current “Voice of Genoa Comet Football,” but what many may not know that his day job is serving as the director behind the Genoa Public Works department.
“KG” is also the head- honcho –the man in the red and white hat (okay, so it’s really maroon and gray) responsible for bringing that hometown holiday spirit to Genoa.
Each year, on that much-anticipated Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, KG and his hardworking crew create a little Christmas magic in the form of twinkling Christmas lights and other assorted festive holiday decorations that deck the village’s historic downtown business district and the expansive town hall lawn.
“It generally takes six of our guys to do the job, even though the pole decorations are relatively easy to get done,” offers Gladden, of the giant, flickering candles; full, fragrant evergreen wreaths; and blooming poinsettias.
“I’d say the hardest thing about decorating the town for the holidays and the thing that takes the most time is going through the lights and making sure they all work properly, just like you have to do with your own Christmas tree lights,” he said.
Between seasons, the decorations are stored in the old Gordon Lumber building on Washington Street. When it comes time to break out them out and test for bad bulbs, Gladden’s Public Works elves don’t have the luxury of electricity in the old building, which means they must also break out a generator.
Each year, the crew faces a growing challenge when it comes to decorating the handsome, swaying pine that stands like an institution itself on the left side of the old opera house yard.
“The tree grows taller and taller every year,” Gladden said. “It takes a whole lot of time to make look nice. “There’s never been a year when the village has missed decorating for Christmas, as far as I know, although that doesn’t necessarily mean the decorations have always gone up right the traditional time frame, right before Thanksgiving,” he points out.
The decorations which stretch from the traffic light on SR 51 all the way to
Fifth Street create a near “miracle-mile” of holiday cheer for residents and visitors to the village as well.
For example, Genoa Custom Interiors is all dressed up with classic, green garland wrapped around its wrought-iron railings and lights adorn the evergreen shrubbery out front.
Down the street just a bit, Brian, Deb, and the rest of the Shear Delight hairstyling salon gang have taken over the longtime tradition of filling the frosty air with the sounds of the holidays, all day, every day.
Decorative banners pronounce holiday greetings like “Peace on Earth,” and “Genoa Wishes You Seasons Greetings” hang from light posts from Woodville Road all the way to Fifth.
Yet, like Santa and his North Pole crew themselves, that’s what one has come to expect from Gladden and his ever-diligent crew of six over these many, many past Christmas seasons, as the Public Works elves always deliver, whether it be changing bulbs on the lamp post decorations throughout the season or adding more and more colorful balls and strands of lights to the towering pine as it grows bigger and bigger every year.
Or purchasing the newest, most-festive, most-durable decorations on the market from Bronner’s Christmas mega-store in Frankenmuth, MI, to keep Genoa sparkling like a beacon in the night for a particular flying sleigh, December after December.
Speaking of keeping a watchful eye out, in all the years that “KG” has been in charge of the town’s Christmas spirit, have any of the decorations been stolen or tampered with?
“Nope,” says Gladden, “not even once. Not in my time at least. I’ve never even had an instance where kids have been playing around with them, or unplugged them. I guess everyone just respects Christmas around Genoa.”
“I remember one Christmas, though,” he poses, “when we had this really bad windstorm. And there used to be this Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer that hung across the downtown area on the wire where we hang all of our Homecoming banners and such. And the wind whipped through there, and tore Santa Claus and his sleigh loose and pretty soon it really looked like Santa Claus was flying, all out of control, through town.”
Does he recall when the tradition of Genoa doing itself up for the holidays, first started?
“I wouldn’t have the first clue,” offers “KG,” “because all those old guys are long gone by now. But back in the old days, we didn’t have our own electric department, so we couldn’t do a lot of lights outside, so we’d just string garland and do what we could –until about the ’60s or ’70s, when we first got our own municipal electric system.
“And then later, there were the bells that were strung across Main Street downtown that were supposed to look like they were actually ringing as they lit up, and I think they even made sounds. There was Santa and his sleigh. There was even a little display up on Main, near 51, strung between two poles. But I think the tradition of the decorations probably goes pretty far back. Maybe even to the ’40s.”
And while, it’s true, that most of those classic, old, plastic decorations have gone the way of the scrap-heap due to Father Time, and the harsh, unpredictable Northwest Ohio weather, the show goes on, because the downtown merchants, those traveling through the village during the holidays, and especially the local kids have come to depend upon it, just like they’ve come to depend on Gladden and crew the rest of the rolling year.
“Oh, I think for me personally, in my opinion, as the Genoa Public Works Director, we’re here to serve the public, and we’re here to do our best for the residents and the taxpayers, and the merchants,” Gladden said.
“Sure, it’s a tough job, and yes, we goof around sometimes because we only have two days to get all of it up to get ready for the “Holiday Open House”,” he concludes, “but at the same time, we do all take a lot of pride in how our hometown looks, and how we present ourselves at Christmastime.”