Jack Kazanzas | Christmas Star

December 2022

Department stores Ivey’s and Dickson & Ives, located directly across from each other on Orange Avenue, competed for customers all year. But in Dec. 1955, the store owners put competition aside and worked together to elevate a yellow, seven-foot star across the avenue, uniting their businesses for the holidays. The Orlando Sentinel reported a year later, “Two of Orlando’s largest department stores may brood across the avenue at each other all year long. But their combined light shines out at Christmas.”

Image: Orlando’s historic Christmas star in the 1950s hanging between department stores Dickson & Ives (left) and Ivey’s (right). Photo source: Orlando Sentinel

The original star cost $2,500 and included 600 lights on a seven-foot steel frame. It was installed each year until the decline of the City’s downtown retail district in the 1960s and 1970s. Sources vary on when the star went away, but all accounts show it disappeared from Orlando’s holiday decorations until the 1980s. In 1982, local resident Jack Kazanzas began a grassroots effort, during which he raised $13,000 (in 1982 dollars) from local downtown merchants to reinstall the star.

Image: Christmas star hanging on Orange Avenue in the 1950s. Photo source: Finding Joy in Florida

What else was happening in the City of Orlando in 1955?

The original star cost $2,500 and included 600 lights on a seven-foot steel frame. It was installed each year until the decline of the City’s downtown retail district in the 1960s and 1970s. Sources vary on when the star went away, but all accounts show it disappeared from Orlando’s holiday decorations until the 1980s. In 1982, local resident Jack Kazanzas began a grassroots effort, during which he raised $13,000 (in 1982 dollars) from local downtown merchants to reinstall the star.

Jack Kazanzas

Image: Jack Kazanzas during the hanging of the star in 2004. Photo credit: Orlando Sentinel

Thanks to Kazanzas’ efforts, a new star debuted in Dec. 1984. Designed by Orlando signmaker Bob Galler, the 10 foot wide, 10 foot tall star weighed 600 lbs and had a plexiglass center. The star shone each holiday season until 1998, when City officials considered replacing it with wreaths. Kazanzas once again sprang into action, petitioning for the star and fundraising for its refurbishment.

Over time, the star evolved. In 2005, it was restored again and the plexiglass center gained a new display of lights designed by Orlando’s Cindy White. Five years later, the star was rewired and the City added 4,000 LED lights. That year, Kazanzas died at the age of 80. The City of Orlando issued a proclamation naming the star the Jack Kazanzas Christmas Star. In 2018, the star received new exterior panels, new LED lighting that changes color and intensity, and new wiring. The upgrades were estimated to reduce the star’s electric use by 86%, lowering the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. This year, the star was raised on Nov. 20, where it hangs 50 feet over Orange Avenue.

Jack Kazanzas Christmas star

Image: The Jack Kazanzas Christmas star. Photo credit: Orlando Regional History Center

 

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