By Mike Wertman
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — A very visible focal point of the community’s yuletide celebration for decades, Medina’s State Street Park Christmas display of lighted trees and Nativity scene is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
It was in the fall of 1962 that the late Rev. Burton Entriken, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church, spearheaded the effort to develop a panoramic display in the park feating life sized Nativity figures along with a large number of lighted evergreen trees.
“This does not have to be an expensive program if every church will accept part of the job. It’s something whereby the community can join in a full cooperative effort,” Rev. Entriken told the Chamber of Commerce in outlining his vision for the display.
Entriken’s idea quickly took hold as a number of local churches pitched in to erect scenes pertaining to the Nativity. They included the manger scene by the Sacred Heart Church, the Wise men at the manger by the First Methodist Church, the Wise men with camels coming from the East by St. Mary’s Church, the Shepherds at the manager by the First Baptist Church and the carolers by St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Rev. Entriken also cited the assistance provided by the village Department of Public Works, noting that it has “cooperated to a very large extend in this project”, a cooperative assistance which has continued every year.
In addition that first year, some 20 local clubs and organizations furnished the lights for the trees. And the trees themselves were a gift of local retail merchant Jack Wylam.
And on what was described as a “biting cold evening” in early December a good number of volunteers came to the park to set up the colorful display for the first time.
That first evening of work began an annual tradition which continues today. Led by the Decorate Medina committee and the Lions Club, various club and organization representatives and residents come to the park to volunteer to set up the display, which along with the Main Street and Rotary Park displays combine to a yuletide display that has become well known around Western New York.
“The Lions Club is very proud and pleased each year to serve the community in this way by helping out with the display. We’re involved in a lot of activities and this is a fun activity,” said committee member Don Colquhoun. “It’s a visible sign of how all of those who help out think of their community. The village has every right to be very, very proud of what it does at Christmas time with State Street Park, Main Street, Rotary Park and the many homes throughout the village that are decorated. I get that from visitors all the time they are very impressed with Medina at this time of year.”
Willward Lake, whose William Street home was well know for its extensive holiday lighting display, was the special project chairman for that inaugural display set up at the park. In the ensuing years many have individuals have played key roles in setting up and maintaining the large park display including Dr. John Gantner and the late John McElwain to mention just a couple.
“The whole thing tied together, State Street Park, Main Street and Rotary Park, is definitely a destination. It is definitely a tourist attraction. Everyone really puts a lot of effort into it,” said Jim Watson, who chairs the Decorate Medina Committee along with Jaye Sullivan. “The Decorate Medina Committee facilitates the fund raising, the Lions Club handles the set up of the park display and the Department of Public Works really helps us out especially getting the lights on these two big trees. They really go out of their way for us. And the support the people in the community gives is just great. We couldn’t do it without that support.”
“Rev. Entriken started it and I think he would be so pleased to see how it has grown with Main Street, Rotary Park and the Parade of Lights,” said long time committee member Norma Huth. “The community has been very supportive and it does bring people in from everywhere and they always comment how nice the village looks at Christmas time.”