A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Purple People Bridge annual holiday display rescued by North American Properties and other Santas

After it looked like a Grinch called COVID-19 would steal this year’s holiday celebration on the Purple People Bridge, a Christmas “wish” tree that stands about 25-feet tall and more than 15 feet in diameter will grace the bridge along with 1,000 festive lights that will illuminate the length of the bridge and the Riverwalk at Newport on the Levee.

“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.

The Christmas wish tree

“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.”

That was until North American Properties (NAP), the local real estate firm behind the redevelopment of mixed-use destination Newport on the Levee, took action. As a board member of the Newport Southbank Bridge Company, NAP assured the board that they would secure the funding needed to light, activate, and enhance the annual Christmas tradition.

“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. The following companies contributed to lighting up the Purple People Bridge: Anchor Investment Partners, Capital Investment Group, LLC/Aqua on the Levee, Corporex, Newport Foundation, and North American Properties/Newport on the Levee.

This year’s ceremony kicked off the Winter Nights, River Lights display last night, turning on lights along the Purple People Bridge, the Riverwalk, and the Christmas tree. The lights showcase the beautiful walk for the holidays.

Southbank’s Jack Moreland

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 featured introductory remarks by Jack Moreland, comments by WLW radio personality Bill “Seg” Dennison and The Wish Tree Program founder Bob Wetterer. Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso and Newport Mayor-Elect Tommy Guidugli led the official lighting ceremony.

Enjoy the Winter Nights, River Lights display in a socially distant manner between Nov. 20 until Jan. 15. The bridge will feature the Christmas tree, 1,000 white-and-purple lights, projected lighting, seasonal music over a speaker system that spans the bridge, and scenic views of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky from high above the Ohio River. Similar lighting and decorations will grace the Riverwalk at Newport on the Levee.

“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.”

Newport Southbank Bridge Company

Christmas lights come to the bridge.

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