If you’ve been anywhere near downtown over the last few days, you’ve probably seen them. Or, more accurately, heard them. That familiar sound. You know the one. The ring of the bell that Bing Crosby made legendary with the Christmas classic “Silver Bells.”
It’s when you first hear those Salvation Army bells that you know it’s time to get serious about the mistletoe.
In Spokane, the bells start a little earlier than in other cities around the nation because of the Kettle Kickoff. We’ve talked about this before. It’s one of the things we’ve all agreed is OK in regard to Christmas, even though it happens way before Thanksgiving. There are darn few exceptions to this rule.
There is no tinsel before turkey. We’re looking at you, Target.
Pete Stanton, CEO of Washington Trust Bank, and his wife, Denise, are to blame for the early bells. And they gladly accept it in the name of Christmas culpability. They challenged the executives of other downtown businesses to get out in the cold to ring a bell to help raise funds for the Salvation Army.
I get asked to do it each year because the bar is clearly pretty low for who qualifies as an executive.
This is not a contest. That can’t be stated enough. It’s this cool moment when folks from all parts of downtown Spokane come together to kick off the giving season by encouraging others to give. It means something.
All of that being said, they do hand out a trophy. And it’s not a participation trophy. It’s a “you all rung everyone else’s bell to help a charity” trophy.
After literally dressing up as Olaf the snowman from “Frozen” last year while ringing the Salvation Army bell outside The Spokesman-Review building – complete with a band and television cameras – we won it. Well, Olaf did. But he lets me keep the bell-shaped trophy in my office.
As Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few has been known to say, they keep score for a reason. And if you don’t believe that, you might need a warm hug. Or maybe it’s just time to “Let It Go.” Either way, we won.
Trying to figure out how to top last year’s bell-ringing bash and bazaar has been on my mind for a while. Then, while walking past the Fox Theater and seeing a sign for an upcoming performance of the Spokane Symphony, it hit me.
Jack Skellington, the main protagonist from the 1993 film “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” should ring the Salvation Army bell today in front of The Spokesman-Review.
Maybe for one day, we could rename him Jack Bellington.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” is one of my all-time favorite movies. More than 25 years after its release, it has only gotten better with age.
The Pumpkin King, Jack’s nickname, is one of my all-time favorite characters. And I’m not alone.
The lines at Disneyland are always long, but if you go to the park anytime between October and January, you’ll notice that the very longest line is for the Haunted Mansion, which gets redone every year to tell the story of Skellington’s quest to quit running Halloween and instead take over Christmas.
Even more daunting is the line to get a picture with Jack, which makes the wait to get a photo with Mickey look downright mousey.
In case you’re wondering how Jack’s story ends up – spoiler alert – it doesn’t go so well. But along the way, he learns his true power comes from understanding and embracing his own individuality, and by not craving what other people are. It’s an important and empowering self-discovery that’s literally told by its beloved score, composed by Danny Elfman.
It also might be the only movie that is both a Halloween and a Christmas flick. That’s an impressive feat.
No wonder our local symphony is playing it in its entirety this weekend while the movie plays above them on the big screen.
While listening to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack earlier this week, there was another realization: Maybe the Spokane Symphony could help Jack Skellington the bell-ringer raise even more money for the Salvation Army.
One of the lessons learned over the last few years of the Kettle Kickoff is that when I ring the bell as myself, it’s mostly a world of a loose change and blank stares. Olaf, on the other hand, gets the big bills. Come to think of it, that might be why it took so long to make the “Frozen” sequel.
How could Jack bring in some serious jack?
Spokane Symphony director Jeff vom Saal and his crew knew how.
For everyone who puts $20 or more in Jack Bellington’s red kettle today between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. at The Spokesman-Review, folks from the symphony will be there to write vouchers for the matching amount to get tickets to see “The Nightmare Before Christmas” performed live this weekend at The Fox.
Yep, you put in $20, you get a $20 voucher. Balcony seats start at $20. But why not splurge and get the really good seats? You’re getting a heckuva deal here. And for a great cause.
For everyone who puts $100 or more in Jack’s kettle during this time period, you’ll get the matching ticket voucher from the symphony as well as a private tour by Jack/me of The Spokesman-Review newsroom, a visit to see the famed gargoyles on the top of the Chronicle Building, including the best selfie in Spokane, and even a quick trip to the top of our tower.
Plus, you can take photos with Jack Skellington without waiting in that crazy line at Disneyland.
Look, this is not a competition. We’ve established that.
What you should really do today is visit your favorite local bank or credit union, take out a moderately responsible amount of money from your account, then head downtown and show your support for this cool new tradition.
Walk around and say hello to people while you put money in more than a few of the kettles. My boss, Stacey Cowles, will be ringing the bell out in front of The Spokesman-Review from 10 until 11 a.m. Maybe you can stop by, put some money in the kettle and tell him how much you love all of the changes to our newspaper over the last few years. And that you really like that editor. He seems goofy, but oddly lovable.
Members of our newspaper management team will be out there ringing the bell from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. They’re all fantastic. You should tell them that. Ask them a few questions. Donate some money. Maybe comment on how much you like their coat.
I’m sure one will be wearing a stocking cap. I’m not saying which one, I’m just saying one doesn’t have much hair. Or really any hair.
Just make sure you’re back at The Spokesman-Review by 3. And save your biggest donation for then.
There’s a song in “The Nightmare Before Christmas” called “Making Christmas.” It’s equal parts wonderful and confusing. It might be the perfect song for what will happen today in front of our newspaper building.
Besides, it’s not often you get to see Jack Skellington hanging around downtown Spokane with his buddies from the symphony, all while helping the Salvation Army.