Task Force To Address Canceled Christmas In July

At a special meeting of the Put-in-Bay businesses owners & residents on Wednesday, August 8th, at the Senior Center,
the group’s president, Brad Ohlemacher, met with members and presented his thoughts about Christmas in July which has been canceled. as reported on the Put-in-Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau website.

Brad told those gathered he had talked with many in the community and put together a reason for the necessity of taking action and a plan to address the various factors which come into play in solving the growing problem of Christmas in July and its negative impact. The necessity of changing what has happened to an event which was promoted to bring families to the island for a fun outing with holiday lights, parades, decorations, and cheer, plus increase business, has changed to a weekend of anything but those things. And it now comes down to a matter of safety and security of the islands residents, employees, guests and businesses.

Everyone is welcome on Put-in-Bay, but as we have now have experienced for the last few years, the island is physically and financially unable to support the overwhelming masses of people in short periods of time, especially when there is the need for extra security because of those who don’t treat the island with respect and behave in such a manner as to keep others away who also want to come to enjoy the island.

During the task force meeting, suggestions were taken for how to end the Christmas in July nightmare. Just about everyone in the packed task force center had a suggestion or two, but when it came right down to it, everyone pretty much agreed there was no simple solution, but perhaps a variety of options for solving the situation. For the first time ever, there truly seems to be a united voice, plus the willingness to work together as a task force to begin taking action to mitigate Christmas in July and turn it into a normal summer weekend.

Brad talked about the four distinct areas of concern that need to be addressed when it comes to dealing with the situation…Promotion, Legal, Transportation, and Protection (Law Enforcement). The task force set up four committees, one for each area of concern and staffed with members. If you have ideas for solving some of the issues associated with Christmas in July, here is a list of task force committee members you can contact Brad Ohlemacher, Billy Market from Miller Boat Line, Bryan Edwards and Larry Fletcher from Lake Erie Shores and Islands, Chris Cooper from Island Hardware, Christie Ontko from Freshwater Retreat, Dee Dee Duggan from Island Bike Rental and Perry’s Cave , Eric Booker from the Boardwalk, Ed Fitzgerald from Mr. Ed’s and the Commodore Resort, Jessica Dress from the Village Council, Joey Wolf from the Anchor Inn Boutique Hotel, Kim Stoiber from Frosty Bar, Mark Wright from the Forge, Mark Mathys from Put-in-Bay Golf Carts, Mike Cooper from the All-Star Ohio House and Put-in-Bay Resort Patrick Myers from WPIB.com, Robby Morrow from the Crew’s Nest and Put-in-Bay Winery, PIB Police Chief Steve Riddle, Todd Blumensaadt from the Jet Express and Trey Sheehan from Hooligans.

Plans call for some initial recommendations to be announced to the public in early September


Don’t get mixed up about Christmas on the island! For the past couple of decades, the island has had two Christmas celebrations. One was celebrated by even the earliest island pioneers on December 25th and continues to be celebrated to this day, The second Christmas was celebrated in July. We all know the story of the real Christmas, but the one in July, as it pertains to the island, began a number of years ago when a local watering hole began to market it to increase business.

It didn’t take long and the event began to be celebrated by the community as a whole and with the blessing of the local businesses. At first, there were holiday lights all around the village, decorated and lit boats parading through the harbor, a Christmas parade through the village, and even Santa made an appearance. Put-in-Bay Hotels were booked months in advance. It took a lot of work to make it all happen. As the years went by, the event began to suffer a slow death. There were fewer decorated boats in the Bay, nor were there floats for a jolly parade around the park. One by one, the bright Christmas lights in the windows and on the buildings disappeared. There were a few vestiges of the dying event around town like the big blow-up Santa at the Crew’s Nest, and there were always a bunch private boats at the Put-in-Bay Docks decorated with holiday lights, but the writing was definitely on the wall.

Even the young ladies dressed in tight and revealing Santa outfits became scarcer and scarcer. The Visitors Bureau and businesses were still promoting the event, but it was becoming obvious there was no real need to put on anything fancy as the crowds continued to come. Then, about a half-dozen or so years ago, things took a turn, the crowds that came for Christmas in July began to become the cause of concern. The increase in open containers, the smell of pot in the air, the flaunting of the law, the uninvited large groups congregating on private property, and the sickening amounts of litter left behind on the streets and in the park made the Christmas in July weekends like no other busy weekend. Many businesses also began complaining about problems with patrons and, in some cases, dramatic decreases in normal summer
weekend revenues. We heard more than one island employee tell us of customers saying they would never come back after seeing what the island was like on this weekend.

The holiday became worse and worse and island officials became concerned about safety to the point that more than 100 law enforcement officers were on the island for the event this last summer. The bad publicity from the event and resulting problems were just the opposite of what the original Christmas in July promoters had envisioned. For the last five years or so, people would talk about their disdain for the weekend, but 2018 was the year that changed everything. No tourist community wants the word “chaos” in any headline dealing with
their community, but that’s what we as a community were getting. A large group of business people met at the Senior Center after the event and formed the Safe Island Task Force, a group which has now been working diligently since last summer to turn the weekend around and bring some sanity back to the island. The task force been approaching the issue from all aspects, and we recommend giving the group your
support in any way you can.

In early November, hotel owner Mark Mathys who operates several large island-promoting websites put out a post on the Put-in-Bay Facebook Page saying Put-in-Bay has canceled the Christmas in July weekend. The post went viral and made headlines from Cleveland to Detroit in the media. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next when it comes to celebrating Christmas twice a year on Put-in-Bay, but it looks encouraging that we just will only be celebrating the real Christmas on the island.