Manhattan city commissioner Wynn Butler has made it his mission to turn the Little Apple into the ultimate Christmas destination known throughout the region and state.
“I’ve always felt like Manhattan should be the city that owns Christmas,” he said. “That’s what I think; and, of course, you can see we’re on the way to doing that.”
A number of organizations put on holiday events, such as the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Manhattan and Whoville (a private group that does the Festival of Lights), among others. Butler suggests putting them all under “one umbrella.”
“That would be nice to have a calendar you could go to and everything would be there coordinated,” he said. “Because there are different organizations that do different things between the chamber and the city and all those. It would be nice under one roof, so to speak.”
“I think if we linked all those together, that would be pretty good. And get the mall involved. So the mall could have different events take place.”
He also envisions creating a light display for people to drive and see from Blue Earth Plaza to Poyntz Avenue to City Park to Aggieville.
“I think Manhattan could become the attraction where everybody comes here,” Butler said. “We have all the lights. We’ve got great shopping, and that’s going to be good for the city, drive up sales tax. It’s a great thing.”
Since 2012, Butler has been the man behind the twinkly lights and festive decorations on the city fire truck that carries the city commission through the annual Mayor’s Spirit of the Holidays Lighted Parade.
Butler and his wife, Mary Ann, spent two afternoons this year decorating the truck. This year’s truck theme was snowmen, Butler said.
“It’s just fun. It gets you in that Christmas spirit,” he said.
The 18th-annual parade, Butler’s favorite Christmas event, drew residents and visitors Friday to downtown and Triangle Park, where Mayor Mike Dodson lit the newly planted, 18-foot Colorado blue spruce after the parade.
“It’s a really neat event,” Butler said.
It might surprise some people that Butler, who often serves as the commission’s fiscal grump, has so much Christmas spirit. Last week, though, he donned a Grinch tie and a light-up hat, grinning for photos with The Mercury.
Butler’s goal for Manhattan stems from his adoration for the holiday.
“Christmas always is interesting because everybody’s in that giving mood, and they seem to be friendlier,” Butler said. “I always liked it. My mother was German, grew up in Germany, and ... Christmas is always a big deal there. They have special cookies and all kinds of little events in the various towns and Kris Kringle marks, and stuff like that. Always enjoyed that.”
During the Christmas season, Butler enjoys listening to “12 Days of Christmas,” watching “The Santa Clause” movie series with Tim Allen, and the original “Diehard” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” movies.
“That’s, of course, a classic from that standpoint,” Butler said of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”