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"Winter Nights, River Lights" Kicks Off Friday in Newport

The Purple People Bridge in Newport will light up with a Christmas "wish" tree standing 25-ft. tall and 1,000 festive lights for the holiday season will light up the Riverwalk at Newport on the Levee, as part of the program, Winter Nights, River Lights.

“For the past three years, we have been spending about $10,000 each year for lights on the bridge and other holiday-related expenses,” said Jack Moreland, chairman of the board of directors of the Newport Southbank Bridge Company, owner and operator of the Purple People Bridge.

“However, like many nonprofit organizations this year, we have been struggling financially because we haven’t been able to rent out the bridge for events, which is how we fund our operations. Accordingly, our board took a conservative approach and decided we didn’t have sufficient funds to pay for the holiday decorations on the bridge this year.”

North American Properties (NAP), the Cincinnati-based owners of the Levee, funded the program this year.

“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 Tom Williams, CEO of North American Properties. “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. 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 Christmas event and holiday decorations are a joint effort of the Newport Southbank Bridge Company, Northern American Properties, and ColdIron Enterprises Inc. 

This year’s ceremony kicking off the Winter Nights, River Lights display will be held at the Christmas tree located on the Newport side of the bridge on Friday at 6 p.m. During the event, the lights along the Purple People Bridge, the Riverwalk, and the Christmas tree will light up, showcasing the beautiful walk for the holidays. Due to COV-19 restrictions, this year’s ceremony only will be open to the news media and local dignitaries. 

This holiday season, the bridge is working with The Wish Tree Program to help individuals in need as well as social-service agencies and schools throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Initially started in 1985 as a way to bring joy and happiness into the lives of troubled teens, the nonprofit’s mission has grown over the years to include gifts and support for disabled individuals and disadvantaged seniors in nursing homes.

The Wish Tree Program places Christmas trees at banks, restaurants, businesses, and public spaces in the region with decorative tags that identify youngsters, disabled individuals, seniors, schools, and social-service agencies in need. Community members select these tags and reach out with gifts to these individuals or agencies. Last year, more than 50,000 gifts were purchased by the community and donated to those in need across the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area.

The Nov. 20 Winter Nights, River Lights kick-off event will feature introductory remarks by Jack Moreland, comments by WLW radio personality Bill “Seg” Dennison and The Wish Tree Program founder Bob Wetterer, and an official lighting ceremony led by Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso and Newport Mayor-Elect Tommy Guidugli.

The lights will glow through January 15.

“We’re grateful we were able to raise the funds we needed to light the bridge,” Moreland said. “North American Properties and the companies and organizations who stepped up this year to support the bridge are our Santa Clauses this Christmas season.”

-Staff report

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