The Porter County Public Library was alive with Christmas magic on Friday night as Valparaiso Events’ annual “Holly Days” celebration swept into downtown Valpo. The two-day event featured a range of activities that saw the community come out in force for caroling, arts and crafts, and pictures with Santa. Since no Christmas celebration would be complete without a tree, Valpo Events also lit their own in the Rotary Garden Library.
Katie Abel, Executive Director of Valparaiso Events, was excited to see the turnout for the event.
“Last year, we had nearly a thousand people come to our Holly Days festival, and this year, we’re hoping to welcome even more people, especially through our partnership with the library here,” Abel said. “We’re really hoping for a great crowd here tonight.”
Abel credits the annual event with spreading holiday cheer and goodwill throughout the community.
“People can come here, visit our beautiful downtown area, spend time with their families, friends, and neighbors and help to support our local business owners at the same time.”
On the first night of Holly Days, attendees were treated to holiday carols, and a live ice carving. They were given the opportunity to create holiday ornaments and related crafts, and with Santa in attendance, children were able to deliver their Christmas letters to the man himself. Another huge draw on Friday night was the Holiday Story Walk featuring Dan Freeman’s “Corduroy.” The walk led children and their parents throughout downtown Valpo as they followed the adventures of the little stuffed animal.
John and Marie Borman of Valparaiso brought their children, Ethan and Elizabeth to the library to see Santa and enjoy the event.
“We’ve been coming here every year, ever since our daughter was born,” said Borman, who said that seeing Santa was a family favorite.”
“Also the hot chocolate!” added his daughter, Elizabeth.
“We love coming here, seeing our neighbors and friends. It’s so nice to see the community come together like this every year,” Borman said.
Besides being an excellent way to kick off the holiday season, the event helps people become familiar with one of Valpo’s greatest treasures: the Porter County Public Library. In addition to several activities being held inside the library, staff used the opportunity to educate the public on all of the services the library has to offer.
“A lot of folks don’t realize that we’re so much more than just books,” said Jesse Butz, Director of Porter County Public Library System. “We provide access to resources that people perhaps don’t use on a daily basis, and events like this one gives us a chance to show people all the things that we have to offer.”
“We have e-books, electronically available to anyone with a Porter County library card through our digital portal. Everything from books, magazines, and newspapers to genealogy reports and so much more. We also offer notary services, fax, print/copy, and computer access,” Butz said.
Local businesses also participated in the fun, with several holding holiday open houses and specials for attendees. These businesses included Blackbird Cafe, Aftermath Cidery & Winery, and Fluid among others. Many owners view the event as a fantastic opportunity to connect with the community.
“This is just such a wonderful event,” said Renee Blosky, owner of Lifestyles in downtown Valparaiso. “All the local store owners work together. We all coordinate and work together and we always do well. It feels like Christmas here now.”
Valpo Events knows that celebrations like Holly Days, and Christmas in general, are all about giving, not getting. They provided Valparaiso with two days of holiday hospitality, and they knew that residents would want to return the favor. Throughout Holly Days, collections of toys and clothing are being made for Toys for Tots. Abel is excited to see Valpo's philanthropy in action once again.
“We’re collecting donations for Hilltop House here tonight, and we’ll also be collecting toys and clothing to benefit Toys for Tots tomorrow,” said Abel. “The community here has always been very generous.”
The first night of Valpo Events’ annual Holly Days celebration was a success again this year, and it’s only the beginning of the holiday activities to be found in Valpo in the coming weeks. The only way events like this are possible is through the continued support of the community and volunteers, something Able emphasized.
“A lot of work goes into these events. From arranging contracts for performers, to getting permits for street closures, organizing vendors, and much more. It’s many weeks, if not months of preparations, but it’s worth it,” said Abel, who also sent a special shout-out to all the generous sponsors such as Currie Motors Ford of Valparaiso, Hilltop Neighborhood House, Centier Bank, Meijer, and many others who help make it all possible
The fun doesn’t end on Friday night. On Saturday, from 3-6pm, festivities move from the library to Central Park Plaza for another afternoon of music and merrymaking. The afternoon will feature live entertainment from Valparaiso High School's Varsity Singers and the Region’s very own JingleTones. With Candy Cane Lane on the courthouse lawn, free holiday train rides around the courthouse, and a return visit from Santa for more pictures, it’s clear that Valpo is going to be radiating Christmas cheer.
To learn more about Valparaiso Events, check out their website at www.valparaisoevents.com