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Holiday Shopping & Events Guide

Archie the Snowman helps Akron bring back cool tradition

11/22/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Lock 3 Park full of holiday events

Working to bring Archie the Snowman back to the Akron area this season are, shown from left, Ra’ul Umaña, Mark Wilsterman, Tommy Uplinger and David Burkett.
Umaña is shown with a large Raggedy Ann figure that Umaña said was part of the holiday display at O’Neil’s in Downtown Akron.
Photos: Kathleen Folkerth
DOWNTOWN AKRON — A holiday tradition from years past is returning to Akron thanks to the help of modern social networking.

This photo, which was submitted to the “Bring Back Archie the Snowman” Facebook page, shows the oversized snowman in his original home at Chapel Hill Mall.
Photo courtesy of Tommy Uplinger
Archie the Snowman, who greeted children for years at Chapel Hill Mall in Akron, will now be part of holiday activities at Lock 3 Park after two local men began a campaign on Facebook to see the venerable icon back for the holidays.

In recent weeks, the giant, talking snowman has been recreated and he’ll be unveiled to the public Nov. 23 at the city’s lighting ceremony, which starts at 7 p.m. Archie then will be ready for visitors at Archie’s Enchanted Encounter in the O’Neil’s Commons area from 7:30 to 10 p.m. that night and throughout the season on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m., Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and Dec. 26 and 28 from noon to 8 p.m.

For Tommy Uplinger and David Burkett, it’s a dream come true.

Both men, who now have children of their own, fondly recall visits to the mall during the holidays as children.

“I can’t remember not seeing him,” Uplinger said. “I looked forward to seeing him every year. They made a show of it. It was like a winter wonderland. The whole thing took you to a different world.”

Uplinger grew up in Goodyear Heights and moved to Florida in recent years, but returned to Akron a year ago. He was looking forward to taking his son, Liam, to see Archie at Chapel Hill Mall, but then found out the snowman hadn’t been there for nearly a decade.

“So I created the ‘Bring Back Archie the Snowman’ Facebook page and got ahold of a few friends of mine,” he said. “We started getting people’s attention, and all of a sudden it went crazy.”

“We thought it would be something that was just neat, but all of a sudden, within about two weeks, we got up to about 1,000 members,” added Burkett, a Springfield resident and friend of Uplinger’s. “In the next two months, we were up to 7,000. A week after that, it was 10,000. By that time, the news was involved, newspapers all over. It reached Vegas and the military newspapers.”

When Akron Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth caught wind of what was happening, he decided Archie should become part of Akron’s next holiday celebration at Lock 3 Park. He met with Uplinger and Burkett in February.

Meanwhile, the pair came across Ra’ul Umaña, who had worked in the display department at Chapel Hill Mall for years and said he had helped build one of the previous versions of Archie.

The city got Umaña on board, and now he’s spent the last few weeks constructing a new Archie that will be on display at O’Neil’s Commons, an indoor exhibit area at Lock 3. Chapel Hill Mall is the sponsor of the attraction.

Umaña said he provided the voice of Archie — who was originally known as Arctic Archie — for 12 years. The snowman was first built in 1967, and its final year on display was 2003, he added.

The character was a favorite of thousands of children who visited every year, Umaña said. He said mall owner and developer Richard Buchholzer insisted that the number of children be counted, and Umaña said 21,000 typically visited.

“He didn’t cost anything, and he didn’t make you sit in his lap,” Umaña said as to why Archie was so popular. “He had a lot of return visitors.”

Umaña said Archie will be 15 feet at Lock 3, which is about 5 feet shorter than he was at the mall. Also, Archie will have blue lighted eyes instead of the red that Buchholzer preferred, Umaña said.

In addition to Archie, the O’Neil’s Commons area also will feature many of the animatronic Christmas figures that used to be displayed in Downtown Akron store windows with the theme “Experience Timeless Akron Traditions.” Umaña and a crew have created an indoor street scene for visitors to walk leading to Archie from which they can gaze into faux storefronts to see the figures, which have been cleaned and repaired. The Downtown Akron Partnership (DAP) took ownership of the figures after the closing of O’Neil’s in 1988, according to city officials.

The DAP also announced it will oversee the display of additional animatronic figures in the windows of the Polsky Building along South Main Street. Lawrence and Cynthia Nixon have been creating those displays from the former O’Neil’s windows for years. They will be unveiled Nov. 23.

Other features returning to Lock 3 this year include Reindeer Run, a faux snow hill that was enjoyed by more than 6,000 visitors for its debut last year, Lieberth said. Thirty minutes on the hill costs $3.

Also, the state’s largest seasonal ice rink is open at Lock 3 through Jan. 27. Admission is free and skate rental is $3. The rink is attended Thursdays through Sundays.

Lieberth said German artisan-vendors Mario Hausdorfer and Sabine Korger will be part of the Holiday Market at Lock 3. Akron area artists and vendors also will participate.

The Countdown to First Night® calendar event also will take place every evening from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31, with 40 hand-painted banners on the Lock 3 parking deck unveiled throughout the season.

Santa Claus will make an appearance at Lock 3 on weekends, city officials said.

In addition, the concession stand at Lock 3 again will offer traditional bratwurst, chilis, soups and hot dishes to warm visitors. Akron’s own Thirsty Dog brews are offered, including Lock 3 Lager. A special keg of seasonal winter ale will be tapped at this year’s Lighting Ceremony Nov. 23. Traditional Glühwhein (German mulled wine), regional wines, soft drinks and hot chocolate also will be available.

Uplinger is thrilled that Archie will be part of the festivities, and they hope his return will help spread the spirit of the season to those who visit.

“This will bring people back to the times when things were good with the Christmas spirit,” he said. “I remember being a kid and enjoying hearing the bells ringing and Christmas music and the beauty of lights. This brings us to a happy place, and this is what we need.”

Lock 3 Park is located at 200 S. Main St. For more information on activities at Lock 3, go to www.lock3live.com or call 330-375-2311.

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