What started as a small, decorated tree on a street corner in Hobart ten years ago, has blossomed into a holiday festival for thousands of families at Festival Park.
“We started with a little tree at the corner of 3rd and Main Street, with some carols and a tree lighting,” Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor said. “Now you can see what we’ve grown into.”
Nikki Lopez, Event Director for the City of Hobart, said Light Up the Park draws a crowd of up to 3,000 people each year.
“My favorite part is the tree lighting, itself,” Lopez said. “We do a countdown, which really symbolizes the start of the season for Hobart. We do so many events in the summer, and this brings people back together again for the holiday season.”
Attendees gathered around the tree and Mayor Snedecor invited veterans and kids to lead the countdown to the tree lighting.
“It’s amazing,” Snedecor said. “It seems every year there’s something new. Nikki [Lopez] adds something every year. It gives a chance for everyone to come together. It’s a time when people have a lot of thanks-giving in their hearts. You can see the smiles on the children’s faces, and the happiness Christmas brings. It lightens everyone’s spirits and gives a moment to pause. We have a great community here, and we have a great community because of the people.”
The park, known as a hub in the summer for countless events and gatherings, was filled to the brim with festive winter fun. A bonfire kept families cozy as they watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the big screen in the gazebo, and horse-drawn carriages strolled through the pathways, carrying excited children to sight-see all of the park’s decorations.
Inside Festival Park’s indoor hall, families could get free photos with and write letters to Santa, and enjoy the Community Youth Handbell Ensemble’s Christmas performance of festive songs.
Karen Baltrushaitis attended for the first time with her husband and daughter.
“This is nice,” she said. “We try to come to all of the events but this is our first time to this one. Hobart is trying to make this a community-centered place to live.”
For Becca Oden and her two daughters, neighborly celebrations like these makes her proud to be a resident of Hobart.
“It’s very festive, it gets you into the Christmas spirit,” Oden said. “It adds to all of the fests in the summer. I think it’s great they do something in the winter, too, to keep the community together. I love living in Hobart, they always have something going on here. I always tell people, ‘You should move to Hobart!’”
Mayor Snedecor said a lot of people from the city, park and local organizations come together to make Light Up the Park happen.
“It’s come a long way,” Mayor Snedecor said. “And families look forward to this every year, we look forward to continuing the tradition.”
With events like these each year, and more and more community members attending them, it's likely that this is a tradition that will continue for a long time to come.
Hobart, IN 46342
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