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Behind 'Holiday'

Video by Nick Vonderau

Since it began in 1995, the Ohio Northern University Holiday Spectacular has delighted thousands with the joys of the holiday season. But for a select group of ONU students associated with the show, the real joy comes not in December, but in October when work begins.

Originally a 30-minute campus pageant, the Holiday Spectacular evolved over the years into a 90-minute traveling production with performances at ONU’s Freed Center for the Performing Arts and the Veterans Memorial Civic Center in Lima, Ohio, over the course of 10 days.

To accomplish this, the entire production must be set up for the first series of performances at ONU and then struck (taken down) in a single exhausting night. Everything is then loaded into a semi truck and hauled 20 miles to Lima for the second set of dates. A student crew is responsible for each piece of the complex scenery, every lighting tool, and every machine used in the process. They then have one week to put it all back together again.

“You really do get a road-show education when you work ‘Holiday,’” says Nicholas Vonderau, a senior journalism major from Seven Hills, Ohio. “By no means is it an easy process, but we somehow get it done each year, and it’s a great feeling to know that you were able to give something like this around the holidays.”

For Saori Yokoo, a junior international theatre production major from Tokyo, Japan, seeing Holiday Spectacular as a freshman was all it took for her to want to be a part of it. “I knew that I wanted to work it,” she says. “It’s a show that really just makes you fall in love with Christmas and the entire holiday season.”

Working in the crew for the Holiday Spectacular gives students, especially ONU’s International Theatre Production majors, a high-impact learning opportunity that they may not experience otherwise.

“This kind of experience is one that a lot of schools do not offer,” says Nils Riess, department chair of the Department of Communications and Theatre Arts. “Our students get to know what it is like in the real world where you would be doing this every week, taking down everything in a night and getting it packaged properly to send it somewhere else.”

Though the hours are long and the pace frantic, crew members and performers can find solace in knowing that product of their sweat and dedication has been a beloved tradition in two communities for more than 16 years. The attention and support the show continues to receive—both from the public and from each new class of student volunteers—will ensure the Holiday Spectacular remains just that for a very long time.

Ohio Northern University’s Freed Center for the Performing Arts will present the 17th annual Holiday Spectacular on Friday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. There also will be performances at the Civic and Convention Center in Lima, Ohio, on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m.

All tickets for the Lima performances are for general-admission seating and are available for $5. Tickets for these Lima performances are on sale at all Kewpee locations and at the Freed Center.

Tickets for the Freed Center performances are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors and non-ONU students, $9 for children 12 and under, and $5 for ONU students. The Freed Center box office is open Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone orders are accepted with American Express, MasterCard, VISA or Discover by calling 419-772-1900. Tickets also are available online at