Holiday traditions come and go, but some have real staying power and one local tradition just got a new lease on life.
Holiday traditions matter a lot because they bring people together and connect generations, one after another, in an unbroken chain. The lighting of the giant Santa and his reindeer is the Summit City's premier holiday tradition begun several generations ago by the old Wolf and Dessaur Department Store, and continued for nearly 70 years now. But this symbol of the holiday spirit is by no means Fort Wayne's only holiday tradition.
Artist April Kever said, “It's an honor I feel really privileged to be able to have done this for the City of Fort Wayne.”
In a garage in Leo Indiana a once endangered Fort Wayne tradition is being reborn, beneath the brush of artist April Kever. “I'm trying to be as exact as possible so when people who've been driving by for years and years can say that's the Santa.” Kever said.
What April Kever is doing is creating an exact copy of this. For 54 years; 54 Christmases, the 11 foot by 12 foot Santa has hung on the side of a home at 1133 Rudisell Boulevard. It was first hung there in 1952 by then homeowner DR. Ed McArdle. This is actually a small piece of a giant coca cola billboard. A friend of McArdle's in the billboard business gave it too him. It has been hoisted onto the side of the house ever since by four successive homeowners, including Gretchen Oberley, who bought the McArdle house two years ago.
“When we were little we drove by it, my husband and I, and our kids loved that it went up. People come to our door and thank us for putting it up. Our house is known as the Santa Clause home.” Oberley said.
But time has taken a toll on the big Santa; moisture has rotted the backing and peeled the paint. Hanging this Santa another year wasn’t an option, so, feeling bound by tradition, the Oberleys contacted April Kever about painting a new one. It turns out the Rudisell Santa is a tradition in April's family as well.
“My grandma drove by this when she was younger so it makes me feel really cool to be able to do this.” April said.
And it will be very cool when the Rudisell Santa is hoisted this weekend, above the neighborhood it has watched over for nearly three generations of Christmases; carrying its holiday message to generations yet unborn.
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