Lifting Spirits with Holiday Stories

Patrick Ziegler & Teresa Thome on set for Holiday Memories Grand Rapids.

Celebrate the season with “Holiday Memories of Grand Rapids,” a television special combining interviews, photos, footage and more. Created by Fubble Entertainment’s Teresa Thome and Patrick Ziegler, this special, airing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, documents the love and history of downtown Grand Rapids.

After both Thome and Ziegler suffered a loss of a parent in 2012, they were in need of some extra cheer over the holidays. To lift their spirits, they decided to commemorate all the past holiday traditions in Grand Rapids by dedicating the Facebook page, “Holiday Memories of Grand Rapids, MI” to it. An outpouring of photos and stories from the community was shared and discussed on the Facebook page, much to their amazement.

Looking through all these shared photos online, Thome and Ziegler further developed this project into an eight-minute video incorporating the vintage photos and adding interviews about the holidays downtown. After only a matter of days, the video became an instant hit with an overwhelmingly positive response. However, Thome and Ziegler wanted to do something even more meaningful for the community and were inspired to create a television special celebrating the holidays in Grand Rapids.

"Holiday Memories of Grand Rapids" encourages people to share their favorite memories of downtown Grand Rapids during the holiday season.
“Holiday Memories of Grand Rapids” encourages people to share their favorite memories of downtown Grand Rapids during the holiday season.

After researching archives and interviewing shop owners, department store employees, families and shoppers, Thome and Ziegler collected stories from those who experienced the magic of downtown firsthand during the 1940s-1970s. With Steketee’s, Wurzburg’s, and Herpolsheimer’s department stores all located nearby, downtown was the place to be to see elaborate decorations and window displays, catch a lift on the Santa Express train, and visit Santa and Rudolph.

Not only was creating this project a blast, but it also brought back special memories of their own. Thome loved it when her father would take her family to ride the train at Herpolsheimer’s department store, explaining “nothing beat feeling like you were 60 feet in the air.” Ziegler also recounted that his favorite memory was driving around downtown with his family admiring the light displays. “We would play Christmas music on the radio and drive down Monroe. I can vividly recall looking above and seeing the overhead decorations that stretched over the street while we drove under them,” Ziegler said.

With dedication and passion, Thome and Ziegler’s hard work paid off when they hosted and produced their television special, “Holiday Memories of Grand Rapids,” in December 2014, which earned an Eclipse Award. “The nostalgia has captured the hearts of our community and we couldn’t be more proud in bringing this to fruition for all to enjoy,” Thome explained.

Because this special means so much to them, Thome and Ziegler hope the community enjoys watching it as much as they do with their families. Since it explores the history of the Grand Rapids community, this television special is a wonderful opportunity for all generations to come together and share their own memories of the holidays.

The fourth annual special, “Holiday Memories of Grand Rapids,” airs on WOOD TV8 this year on Christmas Eve at 12:30 p.m. and Christmas Day at noon as well as on WOTV 4 on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. and Christmas Day at 7 a.m. It also makes a great holiday gift and can be purchased on their website, holidaymemoriesgr.com. Grab some hot chocolate and experience downtown’s holiday past through the remarkable stories of the Grand Rapids community.

*Photos courtesy of Fubble Entertainment

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