Crowds return to Holiday in the City after shooting

“I’m not giving up on Springfield,” one volunteer says after incident marred opening night.

Visitors and volunteers returned to downtown Springfield on Saturday evening for Holiday in the City’s ice skating rink, music and lights after a shooting near where activities during Friday’s grand illumination occurred to open the annual event.

A man reportedly was shot in the arm in the parking lot of the Heritage Center of Clark County around 8 p.m., and a crime scene taped off on Fountain Avenue near the Esplanade where the tree lighting happened and where hundreds of people gathered earlier in the evening.

Suzy Evans volunteered Saturday with a group of other Springfield Fellowship Church members. Her husband and children had skated at the Speedway Ice Skating Rink not long before the incident Friday.

She said she had been through an active shooter situation at Ohio State and said the experience came in handy, as she and others helped one young family to safety. She remained positive Saturday.

“I’m not giving up on Springfield. We have a great place and hope the community shows up here,” Evans said.

>> PHOTOS: Holiday in the City grand illumination

Chris Schutte, vice-president, destination marketing + communications for the Greater Springfield Partnership, which presents Holiday in the City, was pleased to see visitors enjoying the rink. He said he hopes the community won’t let an isolated incident spoil the spirit of the event, which lasts five weeks.

“It’s not something we expect, but it’s something we plan for,” he said. “We take every security precaution and have on-site patrols. It’s a shame something like this happened, but it’s important to understand this is a one-time thing, and I hope no one thinks it’s not safe. We’re hopeful people will be here to enjoy the rink and what we offer.”

He anticipated fewer people would come downtown Saturday as the Ohio State-Michigan game kept many people’s attention and a bigger than expected crowd was at Friday’s illumination.

Derek Snowden has worked with Holiday in the City lighting, sound and other technical areas for years. He was active in helping secure the area as he said it’s a big deal to his family and encouraged people to continue visiting.

Candace Simmons of Springfield was the first in line to get her twin girls Kay’On and Kay’Lyn on the ice on Saturday.

“I was very worried, but my girls were excited to come down here and skate,” she said.

Already skilled roller skaters, the twins were excited to try the ice and admitted they were a little nervous for the new experience.

“My friend said it was like roller skating without wheels,” said Kay’On.

After strapping on their skates, the girls took a while to get adjusted, but soon got their groove and were moving about the rink along with others as mom cheered them on and took videos.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

The rink is manned by volunteer groups, with Fellowship Church taking the weekend duties. Several church members and staff were working when the shooting occurred and helped get visitors fleeing the main areas of activity to safety in the Bushnell Building, across the street from the rink on City Hall Plaza.

Pastor Jeremy Hudson posted a video on Saturday afternoon saying that despite the incident Friday, his church and volunteers would remain resilient in their commitment and encouraged people to come out.

“We really appreciate Fellowship’s dedication. They were here for us last year, too, and are a great team,” said Schutte.

Shelby Harris, a family ministry director, was standing near the State Theater when a shot rang out and ran back to the rink area to get people off the ice and to Bushnell.

While Saturday she was still processing what went on, Harris said it’s important to support the community and for people to enjoy a fun, family event.

“We have a slogan – ‘What’s good for Springfield is good for Fellowship,’” said Greg Nerger, Fellowship Spring Hill campus minister. “We don’t want what happened to ruin it.”

Harris and Nerger said a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy stationed at the rink took off toward where the shooting occurred as soon as word reached him.

As Saturday evening wore on, a wedding party of several people left their reception at the Bushnell Building and walked to the Esplanade to get pictures near the tree and lights.

Tracy Stone and her kids were visiting family here from Illinois. They loved the lights, were excited to skate and hoped to come back annually.

Schutte wants these scenarios to be the memories of Holiday in the City opposed to the incident Friday.

“This is (Greater Springfield Partnership’s) seventh year, and we want to keep it safe for attendees, skaters and spectators. We’ll have so much more over the next few weeks,” he said.

Go to www.facebook.com/holidayinthecityspfld/ for a list of Holiday in the City events.

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