Special choice will get to turn on Community Center holiday lights during Fort Wayne’s Night of Lights event

Zander Shirmeyer, nearly 4, gets the honor of turning on the holiday light display Wednesday night at the Fort Wayne Community Center on Main Street during the annual Night of Lights event. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Drew Shirmeyer takes a photo of Zander, nearly 4, during a visit to the lobby of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's Community Center, 233 W. Main St. Zander has been selected to turn on the center's holiday light display Wednesday night during the annual Night of Lights event. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

When staff at the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s Community Center thought about who to ask to turn on the center’s holiday light display during the annual Night of Lights event Wednesday, they all agreed on a regular there — Zander Shirmeyer of Fort Wayne.

Zander has taken 45 classes at the Community Center, 233 W. Main St., over the past year and a half, and all of the staff know him. That’s despite only turning age 4 on Sunday and standing about as tall as an elf.

“I think he is going to get a big kick out of it,” said Drew Shirmeyer, Zander’s father. “I think he is going to get a real neat amazement when they (the lights) all turn on.”

Parks department Director Al Moll typically has invited a child from the crowd to turn on the lights during Night of Lights, said Natalie Eggeman, parks department public information officer.

This year, Community Center staff thought that job should go to Zander because he has taken so many classes there.

“We’ve never had anyone take as many classes before, especially a child,” Eggeman said.

Zander doesn’t attend preschool or day care, so the parks department classes are his “school,” his Dad said.

“It gives him the opportunity, more or less, to mingle with other kids and meet friends,” Shirmeyer said.

Shirmeyer, who works on a consulting contract basis with a local environmental services firm, is Zander’s primary caretaker during the day while his wife, Elonda, works full time.

She scans the parks department’s Fun Times programs and activities catalog and then registers Zander for classes in art, crafts, music and motion, sports or specialty classes, such as on superheroes or Mickey Mouse.

Drew Shirmeyer said he’s surprised more families don’t take advantage of the opportunity to take the classes, which Zander really enjoys.

As for Zander, he didn’t have much to say about receiving the honor of turning on the Community Center’s holiday lights.

But based on the way he checked all of the fake presents under the Community Center’s Christmas tree, plus wanting to pose for a photo with an inflatable Santa in the center lobby, it’s safe to say he’s pretty excited about the holidays.


Here are planned times for holiday lights to turn on Wednesday night at various downtown attractions. People are welcome to walk or travel from one location to the next to see all of the lightings:

5:30 p.m.: History Center Turret Lighting, Barr and Berry streets

5:45 p.m.: Christ Child Festival Nativity Lighting, Ross Building on Main Street at Maiden Lane

5:50 p.m.: Aunt Millie’s Northern Lights, 350 Pearl St.

5:55 p.m.: Community Center Santa’s Workshop Display, 233 W. Main St.

6:20 p.m.: Santa and His Reindeer on PNC Bank, Main and Calhoun streets

6:40 p.m.: Ash Brokerage Holiday Illumination, Harrison and Berry streets

7 p.m.: Wells Fargo Holiday Display and Indiana Michigan Power Merry Christmas Wreath, I&M Power Center Plaza at Calhoun and Wayne streets

7:15 p.m.: Botanical Conservatory & Embassy Theatre Displays, Jefferson Boulevard at Calhoun Street

7:30 p.m.: Ringing of the Bells, downtown churches and Allen County Public Library carillon

7:45 p.m.: Parkview Field Holiday Fireworks, Jefferson Boulevard


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