Lights, camera, action: NBC’s “Today” show featured the famed holiday decorations at Hampden’s beloved Miracle on 34th Street on Wednesday — and several people came out on a drizzly and foggy morning to show off their Baltimore spirit.
More than 100 people gathered in the center of the 700 block of W. 34th Street, many wearing festive red and green holiday attire draped in jingle bells. A handful of kids cheered in Santa and Elf hats, prompting WBAL reporter Jason Newton to joke: “apparently, there’s no school today.” A massive cheetah print sign with pink lettering read: “Happy Holidays, Hon!”
Monesha Phillips-Johnson, a lifelong resident of Baltimore, drove across town from her home in Ednor Gardens for the live TV spot.
“This has been a tradition for years. And I remember when it was a big deal locally with the families and people who lived here, and then it drew into this nationally attraction,” she said.
The dazzling and elaborate lights at the annual attraction are on display from now until New Year’s Day from 6-10 p.m., except for Fridays and Saturdays, when they stay on until midnight. They will also be on all night for Christmas Eve.
Bob Hosier, and his wife Darlene, have led the 22 houses on 34th Street for decades.
“I’ve been doing this for 55 years,” Hosier said. “I do it because I love Christmas, not for all this attention. All the publicity is just a bonus for the neighborhood. ... It’s a good thing for the businesses and it puts a good spot on City of Baltimore.”
Hosier said he enjoys Christmas because “it’s the one time of the year of the year everybody tries to be courteous and kind to each other. .. If I lived on a dead end street in a desert, I’d decorate my house the way that I do,” Hosier said.
This year provides an opportunity for prospective home buyers like Hosier, who also love to decorate for Christmas. After the death earlier this year of longtime 34th street resident Patsy Marie Dailey, a house on the block is now listed for sale.
Deborah Falkenhan, the owner at Falkenhan’s Hardware for the past 25 years, said she has seen the lights every year since her father purchased the building at Chestnut Avenue and W. 34th Street in 1968. News coverage draws big flocks of people to visit the lit-up houses.
“I don’t know if the lights would be as big as they are if it wasn’t for the news. But when the lights hit the big time, traffic was so backed up,” Falkenhan said.
Coverage from national outlets,like NBC, combined with social media, draws thousands of people to the neighborhood each year.
Lou Catelli is the ambassador of the World Cup pop-up shop at the Treehouse Cafe and Juice Bar across the street from Falkenhan’s.
There, customers can watch the World Cup games and drink beer. The doors for the pop-up open at 5 a.m., said Catelli, whose legal name is William Bauer.
Bauer is looking forward to people stopping in after the “Today” shoot.
“They have such a great collection of Christmas lights and the promotion of the TV broadcast is going to do wonders for us and the neighborhood,” Bauer said. “This is the first time ever the World Cup has been in the Christmas season. The 34th Street lights have been an attraction for years and years. Combine that with the national spotlight, there’s bound to be so many folks for us to serve up.”