Candles have symbolized the Christmas season for centuries, but how many places become merry and bright because they’re the home of a company that produces millions of candles every year? Medina can claim those bragging rights because in 1869, Amos Ives Root — aka “the bee man” — began manufacturing beekeeping equipment in the northeast Ohio town. His family-owned business transitioned to beeswax candles in the 1920s, and today, Root Candles is one of the nation’s leading candlemakers.
The candle industry is so, well, deeply rooted in Medina that locals proudly say they can tell which candles are being poured by the fragrances wafting out of the factory. No wonder the town ushers in the holidays with its uniquely homegrown Medina Candlelight Walk, a three-day event that commences on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Organized by Main Street Medina and the City of Medina, the Candlelight Walk features thousands of candles aglow and agleam inside luminarias placed all along the walkways and perimeter of downtown Medina’s park-like Public Square. Two miles’ worth of LED lights also adorn the trove of Victorian buildings that surround Public Square, and in the heart of the square, a splendid Christmas tree sparkles inside the white gazebo, a lacy-looking Italianate bandstand that is as ornate as it is beloved by the community.
“People feel that the Candlelight Walk is very family-friendly,” says Main Street Medina’s interim director, George Sam. “Visitors come in generations from grandparents to babies, and they love to walk around the square, enjoy all the beautiful lights, and pose for pictures in front of the gazebo’s Christmas tree.”
Featuring traditional Yuletide activities such as a parade and visits with Santa, the Candlelight Walk attracts about 50,000 people every year. With genuine candlelight charm and a picture-perfect setting, the event exemplifies the glad tidings of small-town America, and it’s easy to imagine George Bailey shouting “Merry Christmas!” to folks on the square or the Gilmore Girls joining in the caroling at the gazebo. Indeed, says Sam, “Visitors often tell us, ‘I feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.’”
During the Candlelight Walk weekend, businesses throughout the nine-block Public Square Historic District and adjacent South Town District not only extend their hours but also debut Christmas window displays — including a model railroad at Ormandy’s Toys and Trains and Courthouse Pizzeria’s festively decorated pans and paddles. In addition, historic displays from New York City department stores are on permanent exhibit at Castle Noel, a year-round attraction founded by Mark Klaus (yes, that’s really his name!) that is famous for its fantastic collection of Christmas movie props and costumes.
Christmas shopping on the square is a one-of-a-kind experience that’s all about shopping small. The Candlelight Walk’s shuttle bus ferries shoppers around town to independently owned boutiques and specialty stores, where they’ll find everything from imported Polish pottery to designer clothing to sewing supplies and quilts. Along the way, there’s plenty of local flavor, too. Circles on the Square makes seasonal caramel apple, pumpkin spice, and peppermint bark donuts. Miss Molly’s Tea Room is a favorite for homemade soups, quiche, and chicken salad. Candyapple & Co. hand-dips candy and caramel apples with dozens of delectable flavors and toppings.
Medina’s quintessential shopping destination — Root Candles Flagship Store — is only a short shuttle ride away from the square and occupies A.I. Root’s original beekeeping and candle factory on West Liberty Street. Built in 1878, the handsome red brick structure contains a 22,000-square-foot retail wonderland brimming with upscale home décor items and, of course, a superb selection of candles in assorted shapes, sizes, and seasonal scents such as Mulled Cider, Hollyberry, and Candy Cane. For the Candlelight Walk, the store’s community room also hosts a holiday market where area artisans, crafters, and makers sell their wares.
Although Root Candles is the Candlelight Walk’s title sponsor, it’s Medina’s singular community spirit that makes the event’s Christmas spirit possible. Numerous businesses fund all the activities, and more than a hundred volunteer “elves” from a variety of organizations routinely do their part. To create the Candlelight Walk’s signature luminarias, for example, Plastipak Medina donates more than 2,000 plastic jugs, high school students fill each jug with sand and three Root candles (one for every day of the event), the Odd Fellows place the jugs around the square, and every evening, Boy Scouts light and monitor the candles.
38th annual Medina Candlelight Walk,
Nov. 18, 10 a.m.–Nov. 20, 6 p.m. Free admission.