In the late 1970s – 1980 timeframe, a town meeting was held with a facilitator to see what was needed to make Union City thrive. After several brainstorming sessions, the group formed subcommittees and one of those was a suggestion that Union City had such a beautiful park, Harter Park, and it was underutilized.
A native of the Greenville-Ansonia area, Larry Amspaugh was a part of the group. He appealed to the park board three times requesting permission to light the park for the Christmas Holiday. In 2004 and 2005, permission was granted and Amspaugh dream was becoming a reality. Ludlow Falls, Ohio, had always put up many lights along the river and bridge in their area, but the state installed a new bridge and that came to an end. Amspaugh obtained 500,000 lights from Ludlow Falls for the first year of what is now known as “A Community Christmas.”
Through the Community Foundation of Randolph County, the group obtained funds for the infrastructure. The group formed a not for profit known as “A Community Christmas” and is now self-sustaining.
Each year now, the second week in September, approximately 3,000 hours of volunteer time begins at Harter Park. This is a celebration year marking the 10th anniversary of A Community Christmas with more than 4 million lights! Large oversized Christmas cards are part of the display from families and businesses in the Union City. This year 78 cards will be on display. Music, large displays and of course many trees are covered with lights is all a part of the exhibit.
On Friday this year at 6 p.m., a parade from downtown to Harter Park will begin the opening ceremony. Cars, trucks, horses, golf carts etc enjoy the drive through town and the magic happens. The lights are officially turned on for the first time enjoyment of everyone for the 2015 holiday season. To view the park you may drive through on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturdays 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Dec. 16 through the 31st of December the park will be open every night.
The drive through the park is free. Donations are accepted at the gate, but not required. The Gift Shop in the “Horse Barn” is open each Friday and Saturday with Mr. and Mrs. Claus available to chat with children and adults.
It should be noted that these hours and hours of volunteer time come from many service organizations including but not limited to Union City Lions Club, Community Service hours, Union City Junior and Senior High School and MVHS participate as part of their program to volunteer hours to the community. Churches, organizations, and individuals all work together to make this something very special to celebrate the holidays in Harter Park. It is estimated over 150 volunteers make this a reality. Donations to continue the tradition, maintenance and purchase new lights can be made by mailing a check to “A Community Christmas,” 1373 Lansdowne Drive, Union City, IN 47390. All donations are tax-deductible when given to this organization.
Amspaugh moved to Union City 27 years ago where he and his wife, Anita, raised their two sons. Amspaugh was working at Union City Body Company when he decided to venture out and open his own business “Home Town Handyman.” He and his wife now have five grandchildren to enjoy the display at Harter Park that was an idea in Amspaugh head just 11 years ago.
Pack up the family and drive out to Harter Park to enjoy the beautiful lights – please turn off your lights as you enter the lighted area. Many people like to drive through multiple times. Don’t miss it this year. Just more of the Redefinition of Union City.
Plenty to do in Union City. Union City Redefined!
What have you done for your community?
Linda DeHaven is the new author of the weekly column Union City News for The Daily Advocate. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.