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Santa and Rockettes Disrupt NYC Traffic

Santa and the Rockettes stopped traffic in New York City today — literally. With the traditional high leg kicks of the Rockettes and Santa’s unflappable jolliness the event was all a promotion for Radio City Music Hall’s annual “Christmas in August” event.

Santa along with 15 Rockettes costumed as rag dolls, stood on a Radio City Music Hall porch on Thursday as 12 Rockettes dressed as toy soldiers marched on the street below to perform the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” The classic dance number has been a part of the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” since 1933.

“It’s so fun for us to get to perform something on the street in front of Radio City that the Rockettes have been doing for years and years,” said Nicole Baker, a 9-year veteran of the dance company, told the local media.

The 6-minute promotional stunt — complete with a belching snow machine — was for “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” which starts Nov. 7.

“Merry Christmas!” said Santa. “And I want is to see you all at the show this year.”

For the record, there are 132 days until Christmas.

Christmas Movie Stars Honored on Walk of Fame

Last year’s opening of Castle Noel in Medina, Ohio promised to make that spot a Christmas movie wonderland with the opening of a museum dedicated to Christmas movie memorabilia. Now they have taken that concept a bit further by establishing the Christmas movie star “Walk of Fame”.

Four actors — Drew Hocevar and Patty Johnson, the angry elves from A Christmas Story; Ian Petrella, who played Randy in A Christmas Story; and Karolyn Grimes, ZuZu from It’s a Wonderful Life — placed their hands into concrete in front of the Castle Noel museum last week, then met with fans and signed autographs.

About 60 people were on hand in the Christmas museum’s parking lot for Castle Noel’s inaugural Walk of Fame ceremony. A long, white limousine pulled up to the curb on South Court Street, and a red carpet was laid out for the four iconic honorees.

Castle Noel owners Mark and Dana Klaus invited the actors to share stories from their movie experiences.

Grimes talked about working with Jimmy Stewart when she was just a 6-year-old girl, and Johnson told a funny story about auditioning for her elf role and becoming cross with the casting director when she found out they were looking for a teenager. Turns out she was perfect for the role of “angry elf”.

Petrella talked about the long hours it took to get Randy’s mashed potato “piggie” scene just right, and Hocever joked that it took “about 40 tries” to plop “Randy” onto Santa’s lap because “the kid wouldn’t cry right.” Petrella apologized.

The crowd cheered and clapped as each of the stars pressed their hands and feet into the cement and signed their names. They laughed when Petrella scribbled “oink oink” on his square and when Hocevar produced a wooden elf shoe to use for his footprint.

Mark Klaus gallantly offered his red suit coat to provide Johnson, who was wearing a short dress, with some cover as she knelt to leave her mark.

“You told me to dress up, but didn’t tell me it would be an athletic event,” Johnson joked.

The most touching moment came when Grimes carefully wrote her most famous line into the cement: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

The Klauses plan to display the concrete squares in a Walk of Fame outside the building. They plan to invite more holiday movie stars to participate and hope to make the ceremony an annual event.

UPS Planning on Christmas Already

The Christmas fiasco created by UPS won’t be repeated if their new CEO is to be believed. CEO David Abney is expected to have some fresh ideas on how to handle the peak holiday season after leading the team that reviewed the company’s chaotic struggles during last season’s snow-ravaged holiday period.

Late deliveries lopped off $50M from revenue and raised costs — giving investors the Christmas jitters and customers a severe case of “Bah Humbug”. The inability of UPS to deliver as their system was overwhelmed with last minute Christmas shopping shipments has thrown cold water not only on giant e-tailers just as Amazon but also on the reliability of all Internet shopping.

Abney is expected to implement a system that anticipates demand from larger customers such as Amazon and Walmart.

Operational knowhow has long been a focus at the world’s biggest package-shipping company, which is known for attention to details as minute as having drivers avoid left-hand turns to cut time in traffic.

Abney led the team that studied how to rebound from the late 2013 holiday shipments, an effort that spawned a $100 million, multiyear push at Atlanta-based UPS to expand some parcel facilities and accelerate use of new technology to make delivery routes more efficient.

Search for Church Online Jumps at Christmas and Easter

While society openly debates the value of religion a new poll by Pew Research indicates that church still resides top of mind during the key holiday periods of Christmas and Easter.

More Americans search for “church” around Easter than at any other time, with the Christmas season usually ranking second, according to Google Trends data between 2004 and 2013. Google’s Trends tool measures the popularity of a search term relative to all searches in the United States. Data are reported on a scale from 0 to 100.

This is interesting in light of other studies that suggest that Christmas in particular is becoming more and more secular and is no longer viewed by many as a religious holiday. The December 2013 poll caused an uproar in social media by some who view the results of that survey as skewed.

“We found that December poll by Public Religion Research Institute a bit jarring, too.” said Jeff Westover, of My Merry, who has commissioned similar polls tracking attitudes about Christmas in particular. “While we’ve seen a decline in sacred-based observance of Christmas we’re far from seeing the majority view Christmas in a purely secular way. In fact, even their own poll showed that more than 70 percent of Americans would have religious elements as part of their Christmas celebration. But the results were so skewed and highlighted by the report writers and by the media especially that all anyone heard was how secular Christmas is becoming. And that’s just not true.”

The importance of online metrics in determining what people really think is quickly becoming a factor in judging poll results. Online behavior is user driven in terms of search. When someone clicks on a link or responds to a worded poll question a number of variables can influence results. Search is considered much more indicative of true thinking because users determine what is typed into a search engine.

“Religion, politics and commerce drives most polls relative to Christmas,” Westover noted. “We’ve learned this in conducting our own surveys over the years. So many different agendas claim Christmas that who people perceive are asking the questions goes more into the results than how they answer. And that’s because Christmas has almost during our entire history as a nation been both a sacred and a secular observance. Christmas was never recognized formally by the U.S. government as a religious holiday. It came about because of a secular concern, whether or not federal workers got the day off. Read that proclamation making Christmas a holiday. It is in stark contrast to the declarations of the same decade making Thanksgiving a holiday. Easter is purely religious, despite all the bunnies and grass and eggs and baskets out there. There are few Easter commercials, no War on Easter, absolutely zero political influence, pull or drag on Easter. Christmas is claimed by all those agendas and as such it muddles responses. These results based on Internet searches are very telling and I suspect more honest of what really drives folks around Christmas and Easter.”

Great Christmas Light Fight to Return

The battle for lights and frights is on! ABC has announced one series renewal and one new special from FremantleMedia North America. “The Great Christmas Light Fight” will be returning for a second installment this holiday season, but before stringing up the mistletoe, a one-part special, “The Great Halloween Fright Fight,” will debut this fall featuring families competing for the greatest of the ghoulish haunted Halloween displays!

Commented Thom Beers, CEO, FremantleMedia North America, “’The Great Christmas Light Fight’ really brought the holiday spirit to light in homes across the country. Our team had a terrific time producing this show and seeing so many magnificent displays that were of theme-park gravitas. We are excited to be coming back for more and to also be frightening the format for Halloween.”

“The Great Christmas Light Fight” first debuted on ABC in December 2013 and featured 20 families competing to have the greatest Christmas display. The families were chosen through an extensive nationwide search, based on their previous elaborate Christmas light displays, incredible choreography and over-the-top designs. On its debut, “The Great Christmas Light Fight” delivered ABC’s highest total viewers in the time period in five years and improved 17% over the prior year in total viewers and Adults 18-49 during its three-week run.

“The Great Christmas Light Fight” will be returning with six episodes, while “The Great Halloween Fright Fight” will premiere as a one-episode special. Both shows come from FremantleMedia North America (“American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” “The Price is Right”). Executive Producers for both series are Brady Connell, Max Swedlow, Thom Beers and Jennifer Mullin. FremantleMedia is distributing the shows and format internationally.

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