TERRE HAUTE —
Snoopy is ready to fight the Red Baron, and singing snowmen are playing hits by The Rolling Stones at this year’s Christmas in the Park in Deming Park.
Visitors to the park got a first look at the annual holiday light show Monday night after Santa Claus and Mayor Duke Bennett flipped a switch sending electricity to 19 decorated shelters at the eastside park.
“This is a great attraction,” Bennett said after a short burst of aerial fireworks launched the 27th annual event.
Thousands of people cruise through the park each season to appreciate the decorated shelters. Next Monday night, judges will determine the top shelters and cash prizes will be awarded.
“The judges certainly never have an easy job,” said Sally Whitehurst of First Financial Bank, who spoke to a crowd gathered for the lighting ceremony in front of the Oakley Playground at the park.
The judges this year are “real judges,” Whitehurst noted. They are Vigo County superior court judges Chris Newton, David Bolk and Michael Lewis.
The school or not-for-profit group with the first-place shelter will receive $2,000. Second place receives $1,500. Third $1,000, fourth $900, fifth $800, sixth $700 and people’s choice is $100. The minimum prize for any shelter is $500 just for participating.
Cars were already slowly moving through soon after the lights came on, as folks were checking out the lights and decorations.
Mild temperatures made the evening pleasant compared with some years, during which frigid temperatures accompanied the lighting ceremony.
“Merry Christmas” shouted members of Indiana State University’s Delta Gamma sorority, who were standing beside their entry in this year’s contest: A Nautical Christmas. Leslie Schubert, Jessica Bicknell and Matea Thompson were also singing “Jingle Bells” to passing motorists, laughing and explaining they were unsure of the words to most other Christmas carols.
Ballots, available in the Tribune-Star, for the “People’s Choice” shelter, can be mailed to the parks department at 500 S. Fruitridge Ave., Terre Haute, 47803, or dropped in the ballot box at the park’s exit by noon Dec. 9.
Sponsors for Christmas in the Park are First Financial Bank, the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, Pepsi, the Tribune-Star and the Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department.
The shelters will remain lighted and decorated nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 26. There is no charge.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@trib star.com.