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Local businessman chips in to restore Christmas balls

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 6 — It just wasn’t going to feel like Christmas in downtown Lansing without those famous and festive red ornaments that have rested each Yuletide in the traffic circle on Michigan Avenue since 2009.

A hit-and-run driver had smashed one of the balls like an egg, and it didn’t look like all the mayor’s horses and all the mayor’s men could put them back together again.

But a local business leader has come to the rescue and donated the $7,000 to fix the balls and save Christmas.

“I was mad because they weren’t going to have the balls,” said Paul Gentilozzi, a retired racecar driver and local real estate investor who helped develop the Grand Tower and the Victor Office Center. “Silver Bells is a cool thing that gets people downtown. It was a small thing where we could be of help.”

The ornaments will have a quick turnaround to make their reappearance for Silver Bells, which is a little more than two weeks away, on Nov. 22. The annual Christmas tree, a blue spruce from the Upper Peninsula, has already arrived and is currently nestled in place at the foot of Michigan Avenue on the Capitol grounds.

Just last week, Mayor Andy Schor said he was considering filling the empty space with a scrap metal art piece, “Sundance,” from local artist Bob Welton. That piece, with a brass sun that moves in the breeze set amid fixed steel rays, instead will be displayed prominently up the street on the Lansing City Hall plaza.

“I fitted it with the Capitol in the background and it looked really cool,” Welton said. “The powers that be want to do different things and that’s fine with me. It’s great when the general public can see it.”

In a press release, Schor said he was happy to have public art to display at two different sites downtown.

“I am always happy to show off the vibrancy of Lansing through public art, and there is a great excitement around these holiday ornaments during our holiday season,” Schor said in a press release. “Lansing’s time for public art is certainly now!”

Correction: This story has been edited to clarify that using “Sundance” in the traffic circle was just a consideration by Mayor Schor, not an official city plan. 

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