HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) — From Thanksgiving to New Years’, drivers traveling on Park Drive in Huntington are greeted by a bright and massive light display in the town’s Sunken Gardens.
From Santa and his reindeer to gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and holiday greetings, the display takes up a majority of the park.
In the center of it all sits a more than 80-year-old wreath with the words ‘Merry Christmas’ across it and a history that has brought thousands to see it glow every year.
“This is a community wreath,” Huntington Parks and Recreation Superintendent Steven Yoder said. “It absolutely has been and always will be.”
The official name for the display is Wolf and Dessauer Merry Christmas Wreath. Before it was put on display in Huntington’s Sunken Gardens it was on display in Fort Wayne.
In the 1930s’ it was one of two wreaths purchased by the department store in Fort Wayne. The “smaller wreath” was then moved to the WD Huntington store in the 50s and was on display at the front of the building until it closed its doors in the late 60s.
From there the wreath went to Huntington’s First National Bank and was on display on the side of their building. However, then the wreath disappeared.
Eventually, it was found in storage and was donated to the City of Huntington and the parks department. The wreath was proudly put placed in the center of Sunken Gardens and lit up every year on the eve of Thanksgiving.
After the recession hit, Huntington could not afford to light the wreath or the surrounding display. For the first time in decades, the city would be dark at Christmas. However, several local funeral homes wouldn’t let Huntington stay dark for long. In 2009 the businesses rallied together and paid for the electric bill in order to keep all the park’s Christmas lights on.
However, by 2018 the lights would go out again, this time due to a fire.
“Years of use caught up to it,” Yoder said. “It was made on plywood. The wiring was getting old and we decided not to use it.”
This would have been the end for the historic display if not for the backing of the community and once again, the help of local businesses. Then-Mayor Brooke Fetters enlisted the help of Huntington Sheet Metal to restore and replicate the wreath. Everything on the wreath was replaced.
The old incandescent light bulbs were replaced with 3,400 new LED light bulbs. The old blubs were then sold to help raise funds for the restoration project.
The wreath was place back in the park in 2019 where it stays all year long.
“My mother brought me here when I was a kid to look at this and honestly my three daughters, I bring them every year and they are all grown,” Yoder said. “Pretty soon I’ll be bringing my grandsons to see this. It’s just something that for families is a time treasure.”
Due to COVID-19, the public event to turn on the lights was canceled. However, WANE 15 was there to help flip on the switch with Mayor Richard Strick live during the 6 o’clock show. Watch below:
The entire display with be lit from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night starting Nov. 25 until January 2.
If you would like to purchase an original blub from the wreath, Huntington Park’s and Recreation Department still has a limited supply of red, white, and green bulbs. You can call 260-358-2323 ext. 2502 or by email at Megan Thompson at email@example.com