News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 24, 2012

Annual lighting ceremony takes place Dec. 3

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Determined decorators braved strong winds and cold temperatures Friday to begin work on displays for year’s Christmas in the Park.

The Wabash Valley Master Gardeners, defending champions in the shelter decorating contest that helps make Christmas in the Park the spectacle it is, were busy assembling their display for this year, titled “Sweets and Treats.”

“We’ll keep working ‘til we’re frozen,” said a bundled-up Beth Keyes, one of about a dozen Master Gardeners working at the group’s shelter inside Deming Park.

The Master Gardeners were not the only organization working Friday morning. A few hundred yards to the east, members of Boy Scout Troop 200, frequent champions and last year’s third-place team, were also busily assembling this year’s project.

“It looked good in the design,” said a chilly Tyler Keith, senior patrol leader for Troop 200, speaking of this year’s display, titled “Snow Men at Night.”

The Boy Scouts will attempt to depict what an imaginary group of snowmen might be doing at night when no one is watching, said Scout Master Mike Chambers.

Not to be outdone, the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, last year’s first runner-up, has already set up its display, “Girl Scout Express,” just a few yards from the Boy Scouts.

Often the Troop 200 displays involve sophisticated animation, such as a moving train or flying reindeer. That probably helps them receive good marks from the shelter contest judges, but can also cause problems. Two years ago, a swirling “tornado,” part of a Christmas in Oz display, caught fire during setup, Keith recalled, smiling.

Last year’s first place winner of the Christmas in the Park received $2,000. Second place received $1,500 and third place $1,000. Each entry received at least $500.

In addition to frequently cold, windy, rainy or snowy conditions, theft and vandalism are problems that participants in Christmas in the Park must keep in mind. The Master Gardeners have lost hundreds of dollars worth of materials over the years, they said. As a result, they are holding some of their decorations back until closer to Dec. 3 when all of displays will be illuminated at once during an annual lighting ceremony at 6 p.m.

Shelter judging will take place at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.

Each year, approximately 100,000 people travel through Deming Park to see the roughly 17 decorated displays. Now in it’s 26th Year, Christmas in the Park has become a strong holiday tradition in Terre Haute.

When they are not setting up their annual Christmas shelter, the Master Gardeners maintain gardens all around the Terre Haute area, including their “Giving Garden” at the Vigo County Fairgrounds, from which the organization donates thousands of pounds of fresh food to local charities each year.

The not-for-profit organization also sponsors scholarships at Ivy Tech Community College and provides educational training sessions on horticultural principles. The group is pleased that much of their Christmas in the Park display this year is made from recycled or recyclable materials, they added.

“We do have a good group and we work well together,” said Debbie Lazzell, another member of the Master Gardeners working Friday morning. “It all just comes together.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or