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Valparaiso dives head first into Christmas

A carver with MichianIce Carvers creates holiday scene Friday during Holly Days Central Park Plaza. | Sun-Times Media

A carver with Michiana Ice Carvers creates a holiday scene Friday during Holly Days at Central Park Plaza. | Sun-Times Media

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VALPARAISO — The Christmas spirit took over downtown Valparaiso on Friday, from carolers at Central Park Plaza to Santa Claus at the Porter County Museum of History, with a Nativity scene on the courthouse square in between.

Holly Days, a longstanding city tradition, also featured ice carvers, miniature train rides, snacks for sale, and merchants and retail shops joining in as well.

“This is so much more than us giving back to the community,” said Tina St. Aubin, executive director of Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, which sponsors the event each year.

The festival used to be centered on the courthouse square but, over time and with the opening of Central Park Plaza in recent years, has spread out over several blocks of downtown. The event, St. Aubin said, draws a few thousand people.

On the square, Calvary Baptist Church in Valparaiso sponsored the live Nativity. It was the church’s first year hosting the Nativity, which included llamas, sheep and a goat, along with the church’s Bible study group dressed like angels, the blessed family — with a doll as a baby Jesus stand-in — and the wise men.

“It is fun to get together to share the reason for the season,” said Karen Molnar of Valparaiso, who played one of the angels. “It’s a good way for our group to get together outside our normal stuff.”

The Nativity scene was a huge draw for the Rossman family. While Kayla, 5, tried to work up the nerve to pet one of the llamas, her mom, Kristy Rossman, said the Valparaiso family came to the festival for the first time. The group also included dad Matt and son Caleb, 3.

The family rode the train, but Kayla, in kindergarten at Victory Christian Academy, looked forward to the religious aspect of the festival.

“She really wanted to see the Nativity this year,” Rossman said.

Back at the plaza, the Derwinski family — mom Julia, dad Jon and son Charley, 2 — waited for a train ride, with Charley sitting on his dad’s shoulders.

The Winfield family was hitting the festival for the first time, too.

“It sounded like fun, and he’s really into Christmas this year,” Julia said of her son.

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