Power outage causes minor setback at Winterfest

Ian Hillman, Staff Reporter

On Nov. 17, the opening night of Portsmouth’s annual Winterfest, as the community counted down to the lighting of the community Christmas tree, suddenly all the lights on the block went out.

Following a parade down Gallia Street that featured a very well-interpreted Grinch’s sleigh and a very happy Mr. and Mrs. Clause, the public gathered around Market Square for the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.

As visitors gathered out in the cold — some in line for hot chocolate, others ice skating around the rink while the DJ played some classic Christmas songs — everyone waited to see how the tree would look this year. At 7 p.m. a countdown from the crowd began: 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two … And everything went black. The entire block lost power, including the traffic lights for just a moment. A few minutes later, with the electricity still out,  another countdown began, this one ending in the successful lighting of the tree, even as the rest of the block remained without power.

Shawnee State University alumnus Bryan Smith, Executive Director of Friends of Portsmouth, the organizer of Winterfest, provided an explanation to The Chronicle.

“It affected everybody,” Smith said of the power outage. “We had to shut down just a little bit early. We ended up connecting to the city lights” to light the Christmas tree.

The power to the tree had originally been coming from the lot behind the markets, the source of power to the whole block, but Smith explained that a Mylar balloon hit a transformer there, causing the blackout. Despite the unplanned delay that cut short a few events, Smith said the festival went on without much of a hitch.

“It’s all good,” he said. “We sort of had a makeshift tree-lighting, but people were skatin’ and having fun.”

And in the end the tree was still lit and beautiful, a great way to start the season.