The big red ornaments sitting in the roundabout in front of the Capitol have been a Lansing tradition for more than a decade. But, last year—there was a chance that they’d disappear forever before a good Samaritan stepped in.
As part of our series “Messages from the Mitten” WKAR’s Abigail Censky has more on one of Lansing’s favorite Christmas decorations.
They’re bright red and adorned with symmetrical snowflakes. If you go to downtown Lansing at this time of year you can’t miss the giant fiberglass ornaments in the roundabout.
Over the years, they’ve become a cult favorite holiday decoration. Craig Terrill is one of the brains behind the online satire platform Lansing Facts. Their followers know the ornaments as the Orbs of Winter.
“Well, I think one of the things that we did is, they didn't have a canonical name. And I believe we ran a poll. And we threw out some names and people settled on Orbs of Winter,” said Terrill.
Tragedy struck in December of 2018 when a driver hit the sculpture and drove away leaving the ornaments broken. Many assumed once they were taken down, they’d return fixed the following holiday season.
Ty Forquer is the Chief Advice Officer at Lansing Facts. He said, when the 2019 holidays were approaching the Lansing Facts team checked in on some of the city’s big holiday decorations.
“There was a social post about the tree going up. And we're like, ‘alright, we're on. We're on Orbs of Winter watch, you know, look for these coming up soon.’ And the deputy mayor tweeted back at us and said, ‘Well, they're not coming back this year, they were damaged, we're not going to repair them.’”
Immediately there was a public outcry from people who were concerned their favorite city decorations had become casualties. Cathleen Edgerly is the Executive Director of Downtown Lansing Inc. She said her office was fielding some of the calls.
“So, we had a number of calls to the mayor's office, our office as well, from partners and donors, concerned community members of all wanted to help to repair them and bring them back.”
One concerned young man even offered to start a GoFundMe campaign to foot the $7,000 dollar repair bill that the city wasn’t prepared to pay. For many, the ornaments were a placeholder for memories at Silver Bells in the City or the holidays in downtown Lansing.
“We have folks who use it for proposals, for their family holiday Christmas cards,” said Edgerly.
Ty Forquer, with Lansing Facts, said the whole team was surprised by the online community that sprang up to rally around the ornaments when there was news they wouldn’t be coming back.
“You know, your parents saying they're not going to make a turkey for Thanksgiving this year. Or you know, or like, ‘Hey, maybe we're not going to do a tree for Christmas this year.’ It's kind of one of those things that…I think it really caught people off guard to hear that this thing that they expect to be there isn't going to be there. And you know, I think, like I said, it revealed his weird affection that maybe a lot of us didn't know we had.”
In a Christmas miracle, before they were gone forever local real estate owner and retired racecar driver Paul Gentilozzi stepped up to pay for the repairs—restoring the oversized fiberglass ornaments to their original condition. In a twist of fate, it was the accident that cemented their place as a cult-favorite.