VAN WERT — The fifth annual Christmas lighting at the Van Wert Children’s Garden begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Children’s Garden is located in Smiley Park, 1409 Leeson Ave.
Jim Clay always admired the Children’s Garden started 10 years ago by Louise Hartwig.
“I always thought the garden was just the coolest thing. I said, someone should decorate it for Christmas. Louise looked at me and said, when can you start? That’s how it happened,” said Clay.
Clay and his family — brother and sister-in-law Rick and Deb Clay, niece Leann Hill and Heather Binkley — decorate the garden with Christmas lights.
“My family and I decorate it. We have an opening night celebration where we play live music and we give away a lot of candy to kids. We give away 500 Willy Wonka chocolate bars and 25 of them have golden tickets inside that the kids will turn in for gifts. Santa Claus is there, the Grinch is there and we have the entire cast of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ It’s a fun night for kids,” said Jim Clay. “It gets kids’ imaginations going, and it’s just a fun time.”
The opening ceremony festivities have grown with every passing year.
“We are expecting the largest crowd ever assembled for a one-day event here in Van Wert. I am expecting over 3,000 people, and it’s always free. This is open until after Christmas every night from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., although the characters are just there on opening night,” said Clay.
The Van Wert County Fairgrounds will open its drive-thru Holiday Light Show at the fair Wednesday as well. The fairgrounds are located at 1055 S. Washington St., which is U.S. 127. The entrance to use is Fox Road, which is Gate 4. There are more than 80 light displays, including new displays this year.
“Ours has gotten so big, they decided to open the same day and we are just a couple of miles apart,” said Clay.
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511