State Auto continues its long-time tradition in Downtown Columbus.
In December, among the most revered of traditions in Central Ohio is a drive-by to view the near life-size animals, angels and more that can be spotted at the State Auto Insurance Companies’ corporate offices on East Broad Street.
Known as Christmas Corner, the display was originally in front of State Auto’s headquarters and in 2008 was moved next door to Pein Park, a greenspace named for State Auto’s founder Robert Pein, who formed the company in 1921 as a new type of insurance provider focused on lower premiums and better service. Today State Auto holds assets of $4.6 billion.
The company was only 10 years old when it launched its first holiday display in 1931, featuring 480 Christmas trees and 9 miles of electrical wire. Although it was not erected for two years during World War II, today it continues as nearly a community service project. State Auto director of communications Kyle Anderson says the exhibit isn’t inexpensive to erect and care for each year. “We don’t feel that it’s extravagant,” he says. “But we feel a responsibility for taking care of the figurines.”
Six of the display’s original life-size figures, created by a Columbus display artisan, still exist in today’s exhibit, says Anderson. The oldest is a Roman soldier, which weighs close to 300 pounds and, among others, requires the use of heavy equipment to move around.
The exhibit has dramatically grown through the years and this year will highlight 80 life-size statues of humans, livestock and more. Focused more on the Nativity than Christmas trees, it’s almost a year-round project for local art restoration expert Fred Fochtman, who starts each summer to restore and repair the now nearly historic figures so that they are ready for the display’s opening.
This year the opening was at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and featured the Columbus Children’s Choir. The park was be filled with music. Performances are scheduled by various choirs every Friday and Saturday evening throughout December.