Bushman reducing his ‘Living Windows’ work

Sam Bushman is seen on the phone inside his downtown Jefferson City store in this News Tribune file photo.

Sam Bushman is seen on the phone inside his downtown Jefferson City store in this News Tribune file photo. Photo by News Tribune.

It’s no secret that Christmas is Sam Bushman’s favorite holiday.

And he’s worked hard over the years to keep holiday traditions alive while also helping start new ones.

So, for most of the past two decades, the Jefferson City businessman has been the chief volunteer for organizing and managing “Living Windows” — the community celebration on the first Friday evening in December that, coupled with the next day’s Christmas Parade, helps kick off the holiday retail season for local businesses.

The concept is simple — groups assemble some kind of holiday display or tableau and present it in the store-front window of a downtown Jefferson City business or office.

“It’s a wonderful problem to have,” he said. “This has grown from 5,000 people the first year, to last year (we estimated) we had anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 people — which is pretty amazing.”

For instance, Bushman noted, the Parks and Recreation department’s hay rides along High Street now have trouble even getting through the crowds.

Bushman is turning over those organizational duties to Donna Deetz.

“It’s not ending — we’ve already set the date,” he told the News Tribune in a Friday afternoon interview. “Living Windows (this year) will be Dec. 6. ...

“It’s the second-largest event Jefferson City has, after the 4th of July ‘Salute to America’ — and they have a whole committee (and) a budget. They even pay people to clean up the trash afterward, and stuff.”

Bushman already knows that this year — whether he has a budget or not — they’ll have to get portable toilets set up around the area.

“You’ve got a lot of young kids coming down here (for Living Windows),” he noted, “and they have to go to the bathroom.

“And these buildings are old — mine (was built in) 1884. My bathrooms are not really set up for the public.”

Bushman owns Samuel’s Tuxedos and Gifts, 236 E. High St.

“Believe it or not, our business keeps getting better, so I really need to take care of this business,” he noted, as he listed a number of work and personal activities that are demanding his attention these days.

Bushman already has announced he’ll be running for Cole County presiding commissioner in the 2014 elections — incumbent Marc Ellinger has said he’s not seeking a third, four-year term.

And, Bushman noted, he’s chairman of the Capital Region Medical Center board’s Facilities Committee, which will be overseeing the $35 million expansion project announced Friday.

He called Deetz “a wonderful addition to Downtown (who has) as much energy as I’ve got — maybe more.”

He was explaining his situation to her this year, Bushman said, “And she said, ‘I’ll take over Living Windows — and you help me.’”

Bushman anticipates he’ll continue doing some of the organizing, including the contacts with the Governor’s Mansion and Hawthorn Bank — two key locations integral to the evening’s success.

The Mansion’s Christmas season Candlelight Tours began before Jefferson City businesses began holding the Living Windows, but those tours have become a key part of the night’s events for some residents and visitors.

“No other town has a Governor’s Mansion,” Busman observed. “And Santa Claus has been at the bank since the 1930s — so we have to have Santa Claus.”

Although much of the planning “flows fairly effortlessly,” he said, “you’ve still got to get out and beat the bushes, and find windows” that can be used.

“Fortunately, our downtown — we’re filling up our windows so, where we used to be able to stick a group in an empty storefront, we don’t have empty storefronts.”

And the program keeps expanding, adding churches and other groups in facilities east on High Street and south on Madison.

“It’s getting bigger — which is wonderful,” Bushman said. “But that makes it even more difficult for one person” to manage the planning and organization.

Bushman said another advantage to his stepping aside from the top volunteer’s spot is the opportunity for “new, fresh ideas.”

In a letter he delivered to the News Tribune Friday, Bushman noted the Living Windows program began at the urging of Beth Chism, who was the newspaper’s advertising director.

When she and her family moved away, Bushman took over the organizational responsibilities and headaches.

“We’re adding stuff all the time,” he said. “I’m trying to find some new people to come in and, maybe, make it even more wonderful.”

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