It was only a small item in the local newspaper, but it was an early reminder of one of the brightest spots of the holiday season. The item was an invitation to participate in Marion’s annual Christmas City Walkway of Lights Parade on Nov. 19. That’s good information in its own right, but it’s a pleasant hint about something else: It means the Walkway of Lights begins its shining glory that day.
Our three-mile-long Walkway of Lights runs along the river, the Mississinewa Riverwalk and through Matter Park. More than 2.5 million lights illuminate more than 120 displays that bring thousands of smiles in the six weeks between Nov. 19 and New Year’s Eve.
“We’ve changed locations for some of the displays, such as the Ice Castle, to keep the Walkway fresh, and we’ve incorporated the new Gardens of Matter Park into the display,” said Marion Parks Director Belinda Hussong. “We’re also switching to LED bulbs, which are brighter, use less electricity and last longer.”
The Garden House will host the annual Christmas Gingerbread Contest, which gives area students the chance to create some edible architecture. For more details about the contest, contact the Parks Department at 765-662-9931.
This is the 20th anniversary of the Walkway of Lights, born when the city expanded its annual holiday display to the new Mississinewa Riverwalk. The display is one of the largest and longest-running in the U.S. The parade starts at 7 p.m., continuing a new tradition of making the parade an evening affair. After Saturday and continuing through New Year’s Eve, the lights will be on from 6 to 10 p.m. A one-time $5-per-car season pass allows unlimited visits to the Walkway. The admission fees contribute toward the cost of electricity, brochures, admission stickers and the tens of thousands of candy canes handed out by volunteers. The annual electricity bill for the Walkway is about $12,000.
“We’re proud this project is done without taxpayer money,” Hussong said. “We receive money from admission fees, private donors, sponsorships and local businesses, and all the money goes back into the project. This is really a community project.”
Near the Matter Park pond, Walkway visitors can warm themselves with coffee, hot cider and hot chocolate and enjoy some cookies and other treats at the Walkway of Lights Gift Shoppe. The shop is open from 6 to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 30, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Marion has been known as Christmas City U.S.A. since 1965, when an Indianapolis television station featured the city’s Christmas decorations and came up with the title. Visitors have come from at least 26 states to see the Walkway.
The weather may be cool – maybe even cold at times – but the Christmas City Walkway of Lights is a heart-warmer.
For more information about the Walkway of Lights, call the Marion Parks Department, 765-662-9931.