NEWPORT, Ky. — It looked like COVID-19, and the financial struggles it brought many nonprofits, was bound to dim the annual holiday display that typically delights visitors along Newport's Purple People Bridge.
But thanks to donations from local companies, a Christmas tradition is once again set to light up the Ohio River this Friday.
A 25-foot-tall Christmas “wish” tree will glow across the pedestrian bridge, accompanied by 1,000 white and purple lights as part of "Winter Nights, River Lights."
Jack Moreland, chairman of the Newport Southbank Bridge Company that owns and operates the bridge, said the nonprofit spends about $10,000 annually for lights and other holiday-related expenses.
With COVID-19 and the company unable to rent the bridge for events to fund its holiday display, it seemed like the Purple People Bridge would go dark in winter 2020.
But North American Properties and other local companies weren't about to let that happen.
“After such a challenging year, we knew we had to do everything we could to make sure we brought this beloved holiday tradition to life,” said NAP CEO Tom Williams in a news release. NAP is the local real estate firm behind the redevelopment at Newport on the Levee and a board member of the Newport Southbank Bridge Company.
The decorations are a joint effort of the Newport Southbank Bridge Company, NAP and ColdIron Enterprises, Inc. Additionally, Anchor Investment Partners, Capital Investment Group, LLC/Aqua on the Levee, Corporex and Newport Foundation pitched in to help fund "Winter Nights."
“We’re grateful we were able to raise the funds we needed to light the bridge,” Moreland said in a release. “North American Properties and the companies and organizations who stepped up this year to support the bridge are our Santa Clauses this Christmas season.”
While closed to the public, this year’s kickoff ceremony will be held at the Christmas tree on the Newport side of the bridge on Friday at 6 p.m. That's when lights along the bridge and the Christmas tree will start to shine. Throughout the season, people will be able to view projected lighting and displays and listen to seasonal music as they walk on the bridge.
The bridge is also working with The Wish Tree Program, a local initiative that places Christmas trees at banks, restaurants, businesses and other public spaces with decorative tags that identify youngsters, people with disabilities, seniors, schools and social-service agencies in need. You can select a tag and reach out with gifts to those individuals or agencies. Through the program, more than 50,000 gifts were purchased by the community and donated to those in need across the Tri-State last year.
“'Winter Nights, River Lights' is a spectacular opportunity to magically illuminate Newport and bring the joy of Christmas to the community, all while supporting a great cause," Williams said. "In the spirit of the season of giving, we can’t wait to invite the community to join us on the bridge and at the Levee for an unforgettable holiday season.”
The public is invited to enjoy "Winter Nights, River Lights" (in a socially distant manner, of course) through Jan. 15.