TERRE HAUTE —
Last year’s top finishers in the city’s annual Christmas in the Park shelter decorating contest are back and showing they mean business again this year.
When Mayor Duke Bennett and Santa Claus threw the master switch to turn on all of the lights at 19 different decorated shelters in Deming Park, it was clear that the Boy Scout Troop 200 and the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, two of the top finishers from last year, were trying hard to take top prizes in 2011.
The Boy Scout shelter honors “Classic Christmas Cartoons,” such as the Grinch who Stole Christmas, while the nearby Girl Scout shelter celebrates “A Gingerbread Christmas.” Both shelters include thousands of lights and several animated figures.
Three judges will have the task of naming the top shelters next Monday night.
The judges, Cindy Belt with Union Hospital, Jerry Schooley of The Station Floral and Hair Design Studio and Sue Loughlin of the Tribune-Star, took part in Monday night’s lighting ceremony in order to get an early glimpse of the 19 different shelters.
“This is, by far, the largest participation ever,” said Sally Whitehurst of First Financial Bank, who hosted the lighting ceremony. “The judges never have an easy job selecting their top favorites.”
All of the participating organizations receive a cash prize for decorating a shelter at the park.
Last year’s top prize of $2,000 was awarded to Boy Scout Troop 200. Terre Haute South Link Crew, which is also back with another strong entry this year, took $1,500 for second place while the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana captured third place and $1,000 in prize money.
This is the 25th year for Christmas in the Park, an event estimated to draw about 100,000 visitors to Deming Park each December.
As soon as the mayor and Santa Claus switched on the lights, exploding fireworks launched into the sky and, almost instantly, the park was filled with motorists driving slowly to get a look at the colorful and creative shelters.
“It just continues to grow,” Bennett said after switching on the lights. “We put a few more shelters in each year in the park and you get those decorated and it just becomes a little bit bigger…It’s just really a tradition and a family thing you do every holiday season.”
Sponsors of Christmas in the Park include First Financial Bank, Pepsi, the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Tribune-Star and the Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department.
Walmart is sponsoring the Santa photos in the small “Santa House” inside the park.
The lighted shelters will remain on display until Dec. 26.
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or email@example.com.
2011 Christmas in the Park participating organizations
• Friends of the Arboretum
• Terre Haute North Vigo High School
• West Vigo High School Ambassadors
• Terre Haute South Rotary
• Terre Haute Fire Department
• Ryves Youth Center at Etling Hall
• St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen
• Wabash Valley Habitat for Humanity
• Boy Scout Troop 200
• Delta Gamma Sorority
• 4-H Junior Leaders
• Girl Scouts of Central Indiana
• Delta Theta Tau
• Knights of Columbus
• Frontier Communications
• 181st Intelligence Wing
• Terre Haute South Link Crew
• Wabash Valley Master Gardeners
• Sarah Scott Middle School