Winter Lights displays help illuminate holidays in Valparaiso
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent November 17, 2013 10:56PM
Carolers from the Memorial Opera House, led by Trinidad Snider, sing Christmas carols Saturday during Winter Lights Night at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. | Sun-Times Media
If you go
Winter Lights takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. starting on Thanksgiving and continuing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, at U.S. 6 and Meridian Road, through New Year’s Day. The drive-thru is free, but donations are accepted in a drop box.
Updated: November 20, 2013 11:41AM
VALPARAISO — Linda and Tim Robb brought their grandchildren to Winter Lights Night on Saturday to see the light displays and meet with Santa Claus.
The Kouts couple had their grandchildren, ages 2 and 3, in town from West Lafayette. Linda Robb said she was at the first holiday kickoff years ago as a volunteer.
“The first year it was a few items, but not what they have today. It wasn’t that big,” she said, helping her granddaughter, Evelyn Robb, 2, craft a letter to Santa, while Tim Robb helped grandson Henry Robb, 3, do the same.
The festival, now in its 15th year at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, has grown astronomically since then. Last year’s event drew more than 700 carloads of people and while looming rain threatened to hold the crowd down, Porter County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos still expected a good crowd.
The light displays — Lenckos said there are well over 100 of them — are among the highlights, and park staff starts working on them over the summer, with setup commencing in late September.
“Last year we tried to estimate the amount of rope lighting and it was more than three miles,” Lenckos said.
In addition to food from local vendors, wagon rides, crafts and caroling, the festival also collected toys for Toys for Tots, and items for another charity.
“Santa asked us to have our families bring in canned goods,” for donation to a south county food pantry, Lenckos said.
Natasha and Derek Rinaldo brought their daughter Cecilia, 2, to the festival for the second year in a row. The Rinaldos like the kid’s activities and said Cecilia really enjoys the lights.
She wasn’t too keen on Santa, though. He tried coaxing Cecilia into his lap with tickles and sleigh bells, but she clung to her mom.
“She talks about him all the time, but she’s really shy,” she said.