Lighting up Washington Park


Lights at the entrance of Washington Park

Katie Bildhauser, Advertising Manager and Reporter

This year was Washington Parks 24 annual Festival of Lights, which included a festive parade, horse and wagon rides through the park, visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus, pictures with zoo mascots, cookies and hot chocolate, and lighting up the Christmas lights.

The parade kicked things off on Saturday, December 6 in the late afternoon. The parade was lead by the Michigan City Police Department with the Fire Department following closely behind. Marchers and floats participated in the parade that was put on by the park department. Many groups and organizations were there to support the park department. Santa Claus, the State Senator, the LaPorte County Sheriff, Toys for Tots, St. Stanislaus School, and many other groups participated in the holiday parade.

Right after the parade, children could take a ride around Washington Park to view the newly lit lights in a horse-drawn wagon ride, or get warmed up with hot chocolate and eat delicious cookies. Children could also go to the Senior Center and get their pictures taken with their favorite zoo mascots for a small fee. The zoo loved seeing children bringing their best smile. Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance at the event to visit the excited children. Kids could visit Santa to tell him what they would like for Christmas and even get their pictures taken.

During all of this excitement, the holiday lights were all turned on at once. The lights were bright and colorful and lit up all of Washington Park. All the light displays and decorations made for a festive Christmas feeling. Washington Park has about 50 light displays around the park, along with hundreds of strands of lights that are used in trees and along roadways. People are able to drive
through the park every evening to see the bright lights. There are millions of bulbs used in the light displays and strands of lights. There are lights going down Lake Shore Drive past the zoo also on display for people driving through. Outside the zoo stands a colorful peacock that grabs everyones attention.

Along with holiday lights, the park also has lights to remember soldiers who gave up time with their loved ones over the holiday season so that we can be with ours. The park also has breast cancer awareness ribbons in the park. There are also lights of children throwing snow balls, flowers, and different types of animals. These lights and displays cover about 30 acres of Washington Park. The lights are all connected to several miles of extension cords that run throughout the park. Other decorations are around the park besides the lights, such as bows and ribbons around light posts. Also, the gazebo is decorated with bows, ribbons, strands of lights, and even has a few light displays located inside it. There are strands of lights around the railings, and lining the whole structure.

Although the entrance to the park is free during the holidays, the park is taking donations. In October about twenty people started to work on replacing bulbs and rope lighting. They also started repairing displays and installing everything to be ready for the park being lit up. The whole process takes about eight weeks to finish in time for the holiday season. The cost is approximately $50,000 annually including labor hours, repairs, parts, and NIPSCO. Taking down the lights takes about 350 hours of labor all together. The lights in Washington Park will be lit up from December 6, 2014 until January 11, 2015. Many people have worked hard to make a fantastic and festive sight in Washington Park.

Gazebo in the center of Washington Park
Gazebo in the center of Washington Park

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