After writing about the Circle of Lights last month, I was determined to take my family this year to this annual Indianapolis tradition. When I saw that they expect 100,000 people to the event, and it’s the busiest shopping day of the year, and the Pacers were playing at home, I knew that could mean only one thing.
I hate traffic. I hate having to wait in line for anything, including stoplights. And I knew that if we got too close to the Circle, we would probably still be sitting there now. So I took the lessons I had learned from many other Downtown events, and we parked a mile away, on Mass Ave. I figured the walk would do us some good, having just celebrated Thanksgiving and a birthday in two days. The night was chilly, but pleasant, and the goodwill feeling of Christmas was already in the air.
Or maybe it was just my endorphins kicking in. I love big celebrations, and I felt like a little kid at Disney World, pulling at his parents to hurry up to Space Mountain. My son and I held hands and kept having to turn around and wait for my wife and daughters to catch up. I don’t know who was more excited, him or me.
The lights were going to turn on at 7:45, and it was already 7:15 when we parked the car. As we got closer, the crowds of pedestrians got thicker, and the cars were bumper to bumper. The police were out directing traffic, and that’s what kept everything from getting snarled up worse than it was. As it was, we were moving a lot faster than the cars, and walked three blocks for every one they drove.
We found a spot on the east side of the Circle, with 99,995 of our closest friends and waited. WRVT was the television host of the festivities, and we could barely see the canopy over the stage. We could sort of make out what was happening on the screen, although we weren’t right in line with it, and we could almost hear the speakers, if we listened closely.
With just five minutes to go, we waited and watched, talked to the kids about the lights, how many were strung up, and how long they would stay up.
The last performance on WRTV was a dog jumping around on stage and catching Frisbees in his mouth — “Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a dog catching Frisbees,” I said to my wife — before the countdown started.
The crowd started counting down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” We managed to get there two seconds faster than the actual clock, so we counted with the clock again, “2, 1,” and the lights came on. The audience cheered and clapped, and the Christmas season had officially begun.
We took our time walking back to the car, said hi to a couple people I knew, and just enjoyed the time together. Sure, we spent over an hour to see someone flip a switch and a bunch of lights come on — something we could have watched on TV.
But that wasn’t the point. The point was to be out with people, out in the city where we’ve made our home, and to celebrate the season of giving and goodwill toward everyone. You just can’t get that by watching TV.