UNION CITY, Ind. — More than five million Christmas lights are shining this year in Harter Park.
“We started the second or third weekend in September and worked until mid-October,” said Larry Amspaugh, who came up with this Christmas decorating idea 11 years ago. “Then, the first week in November we work there about every night.”
New this year is a 14-piece manger scene at the east end of the park near the military tank.
“It cost a pretty penny but it’s worth it,” he said. “Darren Smith will put on a laser show around Christmas, but he’s out a couple of weeks on vacation.”
According to Amspaugh, the crew puts out more and more lights every year.
“We put in new infrastructure,” he said. “Some get worn out and we need more juice to plug in more lights.”
Among members of his 20-member volunteer crew are Chad Spence, Shelly King, Aaron Orr and Amspaugh’s wife Anita.
“I don’t want to leave anybody out,” he said. “They help out on opening night. This is a great group to work with.”
He also noted that various clubs and organizations help out to make “A Community Christmas” successful.
“It’s a community deal,” he said.
Yes, it began 11 years ago, but he worked for 10 to 20 years ahead of that to get officials to allow him to do it.
“Donations of lights were brought to our house, the fire departments and city buildings,” he said. “I guess we had 150,000 to 200,000 lights. The first year we got money from the Community Foundation for infrastructure plug-ins.”
He plans to top that off next year.
“We will need more power out there,” he said.
Different themes are featured throughout the 68-acre Harter Park, thanks to Chad Spence, who came up with most of them.
Speaking of “A Community Christmas,” Larry Amspaugh, chairman, states that this year in the 68-acre Harter Park more than five million lights will illuminate. It is a drive-through tour which is free. A donation can be made at the exit if you choose. Large groups in buses and encouraged and many take advantage of it from several surrounding states.
Opening night of the 11th Annual “A Community Christmas” in Union City was Nov. 25, with activities beginning in the southeast corner of Harter Park and including an all-new lighted cruise-in, bonfire and caroling.
At 5:30 p.m., Union City, Indiana and Ohio, police and fire departments escorted Santa and Mrs. Claus from Marsh Supermarket on East Elm Street to Harter Park. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived at 6 p.m., when the light display was turned on.
The drive-thru light display was open from November 25 to December 11, and nightly from December 15 through New Year’s Eve. Hours are 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Vehicles may enter from either drive off of Jackson Pike on the east end of the park only.
There is no admission fee; however, donations will be accepted at the gate.
Amspaugh moved to Union City, Indiana, in 1986, from Ansonia, Ohio. He worked 21 years for Union City Body Company, 14 years for McGee Construction in Darke County, sold trusses outside of Ansonia for awhile and is now semi-retired, working for himself as the Hometown Handy Man. Wife Anita now works for Southern Indiana Midwest Engineers.
“Come and enjoy it,” Amspaugh said of Harter Park and its light show.