Summer Wonderland

Put-in-Bay boaters decks the hulls for Christmas in July.

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Lake Erie boaters and islanders celebrate Christmas in July today with a holiday light show at Put-in-Bay Harbor. For the annual celebration, boats and local businesses are dressed up with holiday decorations like Christmas lights and stockings. "A long time ago, some of the business owners discovered that the more elaborately they decorate, the more likely people would walk into their shops," says Maggie Beckford, director of the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Longtime Roundhouse Bar manager Teri Winchester started the tradition 20 years ago as a gift to her college-age workers, whose seasonal jobs required them to spend April through October on the island. "The employees always gave 110 percent, and she decided it would be nice to have a summertime Christmas party as a thank-you for working so hard," says Beckford, who once worked for Winchester as a bartender. "She would literally cook a turkey with all the trimmings. And she always had a nice present for us."

When Beckford quit her Roundhouse job to manage the nearby Frosty's bar in the mid-'90s, she took the holiday idea with her. Winchester gave her blessing. "One day, boom! The entire town was decorated," recalls Beckford. "Everybody was having Christmas-in-July theme parties."

Today, as many as 2,000 boaters dock along South Bass Island's shoreline for a traditional bar-hop throughout downtown. "I'm totally surprised how Christmas in July has become the most popular weekend of the season," says Beckford. "Just goes to show that a lot of things take on a life of their own."
Sun., July 23, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

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