When Covid caused us to stay indoors in 2020, the Greencastle Civic League created 40,000 reasons to get outside by launching its Winter Wonderland Lights Festival in Greencastle’s Robe-Ann Park. In 2021, the festival offered holiday-time parkgoers twice as many reasons, with 80,000 lights. This year, Civic League members and volunteers will brighten the season with more than 130,000 lights illuminating the park nightly from Dec 3 through Jan 6.
“We lit up everything,” said Civic League President and Winter Wonderland Volunteer Coordinator Anna Harmless. “A wide range of community volunteers contributed close to 200 hours over the four Saturdays in November, and it’s truly a wonderland.”
Thanks to recent park renovations, the event can be enjoyed on foot this year, on new sidewalks. The estimated drive time through the much-expanded festival is 10 – 15 minutes, “but it’s common to see cars loop around a second time,” said Kate Knaul, who created the first event and continues to handle operations. “We will have a map on the Civic League website that will make sure everyone can enjoy the full experience.” All park entrances will be open throughout the festival, but the best starting point is the main entrance off Bloomington Street.
Harmless and Knaul both recognized the installation work of more than 75 volunteers this year, including DePauw Bonner scholars, Greencastle High School National Honor Society members, sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Parks Dept staffer David Bault and his son Phillip.
“David and Phillip connected electricity to all of the installations, installed other lights and were remarkably patient in working with so many volunteers and so many things behind the scenes,” according to Knaul. She also thanked Rescued Treasures for many donated items and for installing its own display; the Greencastle Fire Dept and Greencastle Street Dept, for volunteering in bucket trucks and hanging light displays; and the Greencastle High School Art Club for installing its display, titled “Nightmare Before Christmas.”
“Our goal is to continually expand this as a free, annual event,” Knaul said, “so donations are welcome. As we continue to grow, additional organizations are needed as partners in financial or volunteer capacities. There are lots of ideas, and a bigger team can execute them.”
Civic League members will staff the park’s main gate on Fri and Sat, Dec 9 and 10, and 16 and 17, to greet guests, talk about the event and accept donations. Over the three years, Civic League has raised just over $28,000, “and all contributions have been put into lights and decorations,” Knaul said.
Describing the organization as “small but mighty,” Harmless said this year’s event started at the conclusion of the 2021 festival. “We ended last year with lots of ideas from people who participated. All summer, throughout ParkFest, we walked through the park and brainstormed. As soon as ParkFest concluded in September, we began call-outs for volunteers, and living in such a wonderful community helps a lot to expand this event each year.”
When not focused on the Winter Wonderland festival, Civic League is a major supporter of the eight-concert ParkFest summer series, this fall’s Mural Fest, Clean City Day, the “Celebrate 4” Independence Day pancake breakfast, downtown Greencastle Halloween window decorating, and an incredible time-saver – the annual holiday gift-wrap event, which this year will be Sun, Dec 18, inside the Inn at DePauw.
However, the switch will be thrown on Civic League’s main holiday event this Saturday, Dec 3, when the Winter Wonderland Lights Festival begins with a 2 p.m. Holiday Parade with Santa. Beginning at Greencastle High School, the rolling parade will end at the Robe-Ann Park bandshell. At 2:30 p.m., Santa will be available at the bandshell for visits and photos, with cookies provided by the Greencastle Professional Firefighters Union. After a month of hard work, Robe-Ann Park will glow with holiday spirit at dusk.
Individuals and organizations interested in joining the effort next year are encouraged to contact Kate Knaul: [email protected]
ADDRESS: ROBE-ANN PARK, 405 SOUTH BLOOMINGTON STREET, GREENCASTLE, IN, 46135
FREE PARKING – FREE ADMISSION