WARSAW — Soon after Thanksgiving, Warsaw’s Central Park, 225 E. Ft. Wayne St., bursts into a spectacle of Christmas cheer. More than 200,000 lights of every size and color illuminate the once bare branches, creating a joyous backdrop for a number of events celebrating the magic of the season.
This year’s display kicked off in conjunction with the First Friday Twinkle Parade. Santa and Mrs. Claus rode a “floating” sleigh from downtown to Central Park for “Light Up The Night” from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4. Along with the lights and displays, including a manger scene, carolers from Jefferson and Eisenhower Elementary schools sang for the assembled crowd.
Santa Claus will visit Central Park again from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Center Lake Pavilion where he’ll begin the “Christmas countdown” and give parents who bring their own cameras photo opportunities while he hears youngsters’ Christmas wishes. Craft tents where kids can put together Christmas magnets and gingerbread men will also be erected.
Anyone interested in helping their children receive a personalized letter from Santa himself can fill out a form at the parks department website until Dec. 14.
“Light Up The Night” and “Christmas countdown” are free of charge. “This allows people of any background to all come and enjoy Christmas together as a community,” said Sheila Wieringa, recreation director of Kosciusko County parks.
This illuminating spectacle was built in Central Park by a 12 man crew working for about a month, according to Larry Plummer, superintendent of parks.
“Over the years it has grown,” he said. Forty-two ropes of lights cover trees, archways and buildings.
This year marks the 18th year since the light display was created, and it’s a poignant one. N. Bruce Howe Jr., a World War II veteran whose initial donation of lights from his own Dream Lake display in 1997 started the popular tradition, passed away in October. Howe’s collection was also composed of many figurines he acquired from Charles Finley, the colorful owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and LaPorte native.
“Angels,” as Howe was known, will continue to be a part of Christmas in Kosciusko County for many years to come.
For more information go to online at warsaw.in.gov or call the parks department at (574) 372-9554.