The Fremocentrist.com Art Inventory

The Evolution Of The Fremont Festivus

by Kirby Lindsay Laney,
originally posted 28 November 2014

Fremont Festivus continues to evolve for 2017.  This year’s event incorporates Lenin Lighting with the Art Walk, a Roamin’ Holiday Bazaar, and the Fremont Sunday Market (read more about it on the Fremocentrist News Page – click here).  Here, read about how it all got started, in this archival column from 2014.

 

Fremont Festivus takes place on the first Friday of December in the frequently frivolous but frightfully festive Fremont.  Photo by K. Lindsay, Dec '12

Fremont Festivus takes place on the first Friday of December in the frequently frivolous but frightfully festive Fremont. Photo by K. Lindsay, Dec ’12

On Friday, December 5th, at 5p, the Fremont community will celebrate its traditional Fremont Festivus celebration.  This community-based event celebrates the season and, frankly, consumerism as it marks the official start of the holiday shopping season at the Center of the Universe.

Festivus festivities include Fremont’s Santa, the Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra, a bronze Lenin, Christmas lights, the Walking Guide to Fremont, general silliness, prizes, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, art, and an annual Chicken Dance spectacle.  The party starts at the Lenin statue (in Red Triangle,) with the lighting up of the long-dead dictator, before a special, expanded (in the spirit of the season) Fremont First Friday Art Walk.

Fremocentrist.com has taken on producing this event as a brand-new celebration – one over a decade in development.

From Tree To Statue

In 1998, in the brand-new campus built by Quadrant Corporation, called the Lake Union Center, the property manager, Bedford Property Investors, created a Christmas event to draw the community into the outdoor, public space called Solstice Plaza.  With an 18’ – 20’ Weyerhaeuser tree, professionally strung with tasteful lights and elegant decorations, the traditional lighting was coordinated to promote – but not interfere with – the Fremont Sunday HOLIDAY Market.

800pxFestivusPosterDec14For six years, this conventional lighting took place in the plaza, funded by the tenants of the Lake Union Center.  In 2004, unable to further support the costs, the Fremont Chamber was asked to take over, and find the $10,000 required to pay for it.  The Chamber, which operates on a shoestring budget at the best of times, had to let it go.

This left the neighborhood without a holiday celebration and into the vacuum stepped very creative thinkers.  Corky Merwin, who had just that year opened Postmark Gelato (with Heidi Sherman,) led an effort to organize a very different seasonal spectacle, and to host it in the courtyard in front of her store.  (Eventually, Postmark Gelato sold and converted into Royal Grinders.)

Joining Merwin were Kathy Moeller of Windermere Real Estate, Lisa Magetteri of Fremont Jewelry Design and Lisa Perry, then of Ophelia’s Books.  They each contributed to the first-ever Lenin Lighting which included Santa, Polaroid photos of the kids, gelato samples, other refreshments and the Fremont Philharmonic – all timed as a kick-off for the Fremont Art Walk.

Lights, Lenin & Finding Founts Of Frivolity In Festivus

Nearly every year since Lenin Lighting has evolved, particularly the lights.  For the first few years, to keep costs down, the lights were strung over the sculpture by anyone willing – which led to very different, and sometimes even creative, ‘designs’.  Weather (specifically wind) destroyed lights several times, and delinquents with razor blades or knives did the damage the other times.

Don't worry - Fremont's Santa will be on-hand for the 2014 Fremont Festivus, hopefully giving out mandarins to the good boys & girls, and limes to the bad ones...  Photo by Alan Alabastro, Dec '11

Don’t worry – Fremont’s Santa will be on-hand for the 2014 Fremont Festivus, hopefully giving out mandarins to the good boys & girls, and limes to the bad ones… Photo by Alan Alabastro, Dec ’11

Every year, the Fremont Chamber Board sought new ways to deter the destruction.  Requiring that the lights only be installed on Lenin’s noggin has worked best there.  A few years later, a local property owner came up with a simple lighted crown, easy to install and maintain even if it did require professionals, the only problem:  the crown was the shape of a six-pointed star.

Even once the crown was changed, Chamber leaders continued to get negative reactions from those still irritated and/or inflamed by Lenin, and Fremont’s acceptance of the statue.  Most know Lenin Lighting gives a thumb-the-nose to communism by marking the start of the shopping season, but a few – most likely those who never attend Lenin Lighting – still accused the Chamber of celebrating Lenin.

In 2011, as co-MC, with then Chamber President Marko Tubic, I was included in a last-minute suggestion by Kara Ceriello and John DeLeeuw, of Not A Number (recently relocated to Fremont)to include their ‘Festivus’ celebration.  When notified, minutes later, that Tubic had succumbed to the flu, ‘Festivus’ came as a life-saver for entertaining the Lighting attendees.

The made-up holiday, with its vague and flexible aspects, provides opportunities for endless creativity, and a great chance for Fremonsters who like to play along.  A new Fremont Festivus tradition was born, especially as putting Lenin Lighting & Fremont Festivus together, for 2012 and 2013, seemed perfect as proof to anyone watching that we’re not serious.  (Seriously, we’re not!)

The Latest Festivus Offerings

With the Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra, the crowd at Red Triangle celebrate the season with Fremont Festivus.  Photo by Alan Alabastro, Dec '11

With the Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra, the crowd at Red Triangle celebrate the season with Fremont Festivus. Photo by Alan Alabastro, Dec ’11

The Chamber had taken over producing the Lenin Lighting, but with uneven involvement by volunteers.  This year, as Fremocentrist.com gained the talents of Adrian Laney, it seemed possible to give it the same dependable attention as our annual Trick-or-Treat In Fremont – only with more businesses, more families, more fun and more free stuff.  First though, Laney made a single change – he dropped Lenin from the title.  He’s also hinted at a greatly expanded ‘Fremont Festivus,’ next year…

For 2014, Fremocentrist.com has gotten a great number of businesses involved with sales/specials/surprises (from 6p – 9p) after the Fremont Chamber Lenin Lighting.  A complete list of the businesses can be found on-line, on the Fremont Festivus page, with the live music, discounts, give-aways, art and many, many, many unique and inexpensive gift items that will be available for purchase from Fremont artisans and craft people.

Fremont Festivus will celebrate and honor the fun of shopping in Fremont – with all of its charm of community and wonderful whimsy.  Oh, and isn’t it best to celebrate with lights, lit by Santa and his elves, on a big bronze image of a dead dictator?

Merry Christmas, Fremont!

 

 


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©2014 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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