WARSAW — “It’s a community hit,” said Larry Plummer, superintendent of Warsaw Parks and Recreation, about the annual Christmas light display at Central Park. “We have people ask us as early as August what is coming.”
It’s more than a community hit as people from different cities and states have come to view the displays.
The display has been a tradition for the past 20 years. New displays are added based on sponsorships and donations, including proceeds from the Young Tiger concessions where visitors can get hot chocolate and popcorn to enjoy during their stroll through the park display.
The first year for the display was in 1997. Bruce Howe had decided not to do his display at Dream Lake and donated several displays to the park. Those first displays, still used, were a Santa sleigh and reindeer, large Santa, carolers, angels for the manger scene and three wise men on camels. There were also several strands of light, which have since been replaced. For three years those decorations were all there were and placed in the north node and plaza area. This was the only area, at the time, where there was power at the park.
Since then more electrical outlets have been added and new displays purchased, allowing the entire park to be utilized. Each display is placed in areas based on power limits and to keep a fresh look, the locations may change year to year.
Today there are more than 2,000 strands of lights and more than 30 different displays to view along the paths in the park area.
Preparation begins in late October, early November with the entire parks department crew working on the decorations. Every rope light figurines are checked, painted figurines are looked at and repainted if necessary. Every one of the strands of lights are checked and fixed. “This is a time consuming process,” Plummer stated. “Each year you purchase light strands and they have different sockets and styles of bulbs. We have at least 50 different kinds.”
This makes for a tedious task. “We have to make sure we get the appropriate bulb and socket in the right strand of lights.”
It is after all this preparation work the parks department crews set up the figurines, concessions, manger scene, drive thru arches, hang all the lights in the trees and on the buildings. But the work isn’t complete. The finale task is getting power to each display.
The displays are checked each morning for burned out lights, downed strings of light from the weather, or a string of lights that may have outlived its use. “This takes our full crew each morning for a couple hours,” Plummer noted, adding there is a night shift employee who does repairs as needed.
The park is lit daily from 4 p.m. to midnight from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31. It catches many an eye of those traveling through the city on Detroit Street (SR 15).
Because the park is bordered by Fort Wayne, Indiana and Canal streets, visitors can easily drive the block in the comfort of their cars and catch a glimpse of the various displays. There is also plenty of parking available along Indiana and Canal streets for those who enjoy the crisp winter weather and wish to walk along the sidewalks of the park.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end. For this display that task of dismantling the display begins shortly after the first of the year, weather permitting.
While it takes about a month to put in place, it only takes a week to tear down.