The Valparaiso Parks Department again lit the candles and set out cookies and hot chocolate to invite area residents to come out for an evening of fun and exercise along the award-winning Vale Park West Pathway.
Returning for its second year, the event features thousands of luminaries, carolers, musical attractions and more.
“We’re expecting 1,000 visitors, possibly more,” said Helene Pierce, Executive Assistant for Valparaiso Parks Dept. “Last year, we saw about 1,000. This year, we’re hoping to hit 1,500.”
The Luminary Walk is the brainchild of Pierce, who says that she got the idea from her grandmother who loved luminaries and frequently lined her driveway with them.
“Though she lives in Florida, so it was a bit easier for her,” laughs Pierce.
“We invite everyone in the community to come out, visit with their neighbours and take a nice walk. We’ve lined the walkway with 1,200 luminary buckets, made for us by Thorgren Industries. We’re using LED candles, since we had some trouble last year with wind blowing out the candles. We’ve also added a few lanterns along the walkway to help add to the ambience," Pierce said.
Since it officially opened in November 2016, the three-quarter mile long pathway connects Keystone Commons and Beauty Creek subdivisions and spans Beauty Creek near the western edge of the pathway.
The Luminary event is sponsored by Culver’s of Valparaiso, First Christian Church, McAfee Animal Hospital, Smith Ready-Mix and Thorgren Industries.
The ambience of the scenery, sublimely lit with the glow of hundreds of candles, was accompanied by holiday songs, courtesy of the Calumet Ridge Jazz Ensemble, Washington Township School Live, The Choral-Aires from Trinity Church and the Jingle Tones.
Shaylynn Mosier made the drive down from Chesterton and brought her daughters, Adeline, 9, and Ellie, 11 months.
“We’re excited! It looks really pretty!” said Mosier. “My aunt told us about it. This is our first year coming. We’re looking forward to seeing all the lights and hearing the carolers.”
Steve and Amanda Zelechoski sat in their driveway, with a warm fire to welcome passers-bys. Their house, which rests on the eastern end of the pathway, was brightly lit behind them. Their garage doors were open, with music playing. Steve offered warm greetings and even warmer bowls of chili to anyone interested in stopping in.
“It’s just a little pit stop. We like to say hi, to welcome our friends and neighbors, anyone who would like a drink and something warm to eat,” said Steve.
“This is a great location. It’s a nice way to meet our new neighbors. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year!” Amanda added.
Pierce said that she likes to think of it as the “ultimate trifecta”: friendship, exercise and celebrating the holidays.
“People come, they walk, they talk with their neighbours, maybe listen to the music a little bit,” said Pierce. “They can start at one entrance, walk the entire walkway or just part of it - it’s entirely up to them. It’s a nice way for people to enjoy a nice little stroll in the winter. Any time you can bring the community together for a free event that’s also healthy- that’s a beautiful thing. We’re hoping that everyone can come out and take advantage of everything that Valparaiso has to offer.”
This year’s Luminary Walk was made possible through the generosity of the following Luminary Sponsors:
1st Source Bank
Jim & Jean Lewis
Country Inn & Suites
Julia & Frederick Hess
Brown Tire of Valparaiso
Douglas Koeppen & Hurley
Smith Ready Mix
Stanley Familes, In Memory of Leanna Stanley
Puntillo & Crane Orthodontics
In Memory of LeAnna Stanley
Cavanaugh & Nondorf Orthodontics
Claudia Miller-Forrest, Century 21 Affiliated
Max Miller, Grayson & Landy Forrest