Every winter for the past sixteen years, Porter County Parks and Recreation puts on a dazzling Winter Night Lights Display at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. Hundreds of different light displays from Santa Claus and his reindeer to dancing flowers are available free to the public for viewing at night between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
Setup for this event started way back in the beginning of October by the small, yet very dedicated Porter County Parks and Recreation maintenance crew.
“A lot of maintenance and repair goes into the displays. The workers need to make sure that the light displays work, they need to set it all up, and also the electrical matrix that makes this all work has to be all laid out,” stated Darlene Cohn, the Communications Director at Porter County Parks and Recreation.
Many fan favorites over the sixteen year are still to this day on display, as well as at least one new addition each year.
“The light displays are not always in the same spot from year to year, they move around to different locations. However, we try to get a new piece every year to add to our collection,” said Darlene.
Installing new light displays and maintaining previous ones could not be possible without the help from all of the sponsors within the community. There are a handful of sponsors that all generously make small and large donations, with those on the highest tier getting a tree and a sign within the light display.
“Some of our sponsors give us money donations, while others donate supplies, such as cookies, for our kickoff festival event that occurred a few weeks ago. Our biggest sponsors are NIPSCO, Thorgren Industries, Ideas in Motion Media, 1st Source Bank, Simko Signs, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Sylvan Learning, Coyne Veterinary Center, Miller’s Merry Manor, Four Winds Casino Resort, and The Times.”
The cost to run the light display is not as alarming as one would expect, especially with the ongoing switch from incandescent to LED energy efficient lights.
“You would be surprised, it is not as much as you would think. It looks like a lot of lights, but then again, they are just Christmas lights. With maintenance each year, and having to replace many of the lights that go out, we are trying to transition from the incandescent lights to the LED energy efficient lights,” stated Darlene.
The Winter Night Lights Display is not the only event put on each year by Porter County Parks and Recreation at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
“Porter County Parks and Recreation puts on three major events a year. The Winter Night Lights Festival, the Spring Out To Sunset Festival in May, and a music festival that was just started last year called Prairie Magic Music Festival,” stated Darlene.
Along with the three major events, Sunset Hill Farm County Park can be rented out for events.
The main goal of the staff is to get people out into the parks and enjoying nature. At Sunset Hill Farm County Park, a natural playground was built years ago and is a continuing project at the park.
“Over the past few years we have been adding pieces to the natural playground. There are music toys made out of everyday objects. Valparaiso University students made a hut and canoe for the playground. Our main goal is to get people out into the park and enjoy nature, so we want to teach kids to enjoy nature and love it through the natural playground set up,” said Darlene.
Once the weather warms up, be sure to visit all of the Porter County Parks and see what they all have to offer. However, in the meantime while it is cold, take a tour through the Winter Night Lights Display at Sunset Hill Farm County Park to enjoy a wonderful holiday light display.
“Anyone is welcome to come out on any night from now until New Year’s Day to drive through the Winter Night Lights Display. It is absolutely free, but we do have a donation box at the end for those who would like to donate.”
If you would like to see a preview of display at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, click here!