Drawn to the lights
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent November 21, 2012 6:08PM
Brothers Jack, 6, and Owen Brown, 9, of Portage look at a lighted reindeer during the 14th annual Winter Lights Night at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso, Ind., on Nov. 17, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For 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, U.S. 6 and Meridian Road, through New Year’s Day. The drive-through is free, but donations are accepted in a drop box.
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:46AM
Emma Wahl, 3, ran around a unicorn made with Christmas lights that blinked off and on; she laughed the whole time.
Emma decorated and ate a cookie while waiting patiently for one hour to see Santa. Her parents, Matt and Jaye Wahl, recently moved to Chesterton from the Chicago suburbs and came to check out the 14th annual Winter Lights Night at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso on Saturday.
Although excited to see Santa, Emma’s parents admitted she also was a little scared. Emma managed to tell Santa what she wanted.
The Wahls enjoyed their first trip to the holiday festival.
“It’s the Christmas spirit and all the lights, and everybody’s really nice,” Jaye said.
An estimated 5,000 people came through the park — possibly a record — to check out the light displays, do some Christmas ornament crafts, donate items for Toys for Tots, and enjoy other holiday merriment. This year’s Winter Lights — the drive-through starts on Thanksgiving and continues on weekends through New Year’s Day — includes about 300 displays, from the typical Santa and reindeer to an alien and a roller coaster. The event also included wagon rides and ended with fireworks.
“We try to add a few more light displays every year,” said Matt Pera, communications director for Porter County Parks and Recreation. “Our maintenance crew starts putting up the lights at the beginning of October.”
The event impressed Brandy Ash of Kouts, who came for the first time with her family and planned on meeting some friends at the park. Her daughter, Amelia, 7, worked on a beaded candy-cane ornament.
“Usually we drive, but it’s nice to be able to walk, and it’s a nice family activity, and it doesn’t cost a lot,” she said. “It’s a great event.”
Amelia said she liked “that we can have fun and we can celebrate Christmas and how fun it is, and that they have stuff to do when they’re bored.”