It is not only the gold, red, and green lights decorating Central Park Plaza that let people know that Christmas is quickly approaching. Holly Days, organized annually by Valparaiso Events, joyfully ushers in the holiday season for people young and old of Valparaiso. Despite the threat of rain and chilly temperatures, hundreds of people attended this popular event on Friday, December 5th.
Holly Days is one of the most beloved traditions for Valparaiso. Tina St. Aubin, the Executive Director of Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, remarked, "This is one of our favorite events. We love that we are able to spread some Christmas cheer and see families and friends enjoy our beautiful downtown."
Holly Days does indeed exhibit the beauty of downtown Valparaiso. Whether a local or guest from out of town, people took in the beautiful sights of a live Nativity, twinkling Christmas lights, and carolers strolling around the breath-taking architecture of downtown Valparaiso. Kurt Gillians, one of the carolers, remarked that the downtown area left guests “feeling like you’re in a Norman Rockwell painting.”
One of the gems of downtown Valparaiso, the Porter County Museum, invited guests inside to take pictures with Santa. The museum, which is housed in the old county jail, is run by staff and volunteers who cherish the traditions of downtown Valparaiso. Emily Royer, Operations and Outreach Coordinator for the Porter County Museum, looks forward to Holly Days as a way for the museum to engage with the community. “Holly Days is a wonderful downtown tradition, and the Museum has greatly benefitted from participating in it each year. Hundreds of new visitors coming in to see Santa Claus get the opportunity to discover what the Museum has to offer,” she stated.
The Porter County Museum also hosted the Valparaiso Woman’s Association annual Holly Days bake sale. Tasty treats such as Olaf the Snowman cake-pops, large Santa cookies, and frosted brownies tempted the sweet tooth of children and adults alike. Mary Robison of the Valparaiso Woman’s Association said that her favorite part of Holly Days is the sweet smells of the bake sale, and she added that “It’s just great because they’re seeing Santa, the kids are seeing Santa, and they’re walking through and everybody smells it and everyone buys stuff and it’s great.”
After taking pictures with Santa at the POCO Muse, attendees could stroll over to the courthouse and receive free train rides. Like Santa, the train rides especially appealed to younger children. On the other side of the courthouse, crowds gathered around the live Nativity. The Nativity also featured a petting zoo with two alpacas that attracted the attention of many children excited to see the furry and friendly creatures.
To help battle the chilly temperatures, guests could sip on some free hot chocolate, courtesy of the Rolling Hills Vineyard Church. Across the street, Jingletones spread Christmas cheer with their beautiful a cappella renditions of popular Christmas carols. Jingletones singer Michelle Craig enthusiastically captured the spirit of Holly Days as she said, “I like to see all the families down here with big smiles on their faces and going around to all the different places here in downtown Valparaiso - it’s a great time and great spirit.”
The restaurants of downtown Valparaiso also participated in Holly Days. Pikk’s Tavern enticed people with the heavenly scent of its roasted chestnuts. Paul LoDuca, the owner of the popular Pikk’s Tavern, looks forward to offering the delicious seasonal treat to people each year. “People know that we’re going to do chestnuts, so they come back every year knowing that we have chestnuts, so it’s a fun experience.” Attendees also enjoyed hot chocolate, soups, cookies, and popcorn from the many restaurants of downtown Valparaiso.
From young children eager to see Santa to adults who enjoyed the cuisine of the Valparaiso restaurants, Holly Days sparks the Christmas spirit in people of all ages while embracing the beautiful, delicious food, and friendly faces that downtown Valparaiso has to offer.