For the first time in 27 years, We Care Park won’t light up Gano Street with its more than one million lights and dozens of unique Christmas displays that were once featured on national TV.
But the legacy will live on.
After We Care Park founder Mike Wyant announced the final year for the park, he put every item, display and strand of lights on the auction block. Now, they’re scattered throughout parts of the city and county, shining as individual memorials to what had become a beloved holiday tradition in Kokomo.
So where did all the lights and displays end up?
A drive to the Christmas Lights of Greentown at the Howard County Fairgrounds will let you see some of the most iconic displays.
The Greentown Lions Club ended up purchasing the large archways that lined the alley under which cars would drive to view the display.
Club member Dave Simpson said the archways now line the main entrance to the fairgrounds on Meridian Street, allowing the club to add a quarter mile to its display.
“When I saw the archways for sale, I said, ‘Yup, that’s what we need,’” Simpson said. “We were able to pick that up and that was excellent. In my book, that’s everything we wanted to do.”
But once Simpson picked up the archways and saw what else was for sale from the park, they walked away with more than they had planned. The club now owns the famous Ferris wheel, along with some other items.
The iconic fire-breathing dragon and large sled will also be on display. Simpson said a woman bought the sled and ended up letting the club use it, and the family of the man who built the dragon donated it to the Greentown display after the man passed away.
Simpson said the Greentown lights started 11 years ago and has quickly grown over the years. But the items acquired from We Care Park has allowed the club to make the largest expansion ever to their display, which had mostly been centered around Pioneer Village.
“We are tickled,” he said. “We just think that’s wonderful.”
The Christmas Lights of Greentown kick off Friday and are open from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday to Sunday through Christmas.
As for the other We Care Park lights, Ed Myers, who owns Higher Ground Tree Service in Kokomo, ended up buying the bulk of the large displays.
That includes the train; the pond and fisherman; the two biggest Christmas trees, including the one at the main entrance; the Santa Claus that ran from the canopy to the pole; the arches under which people walked; and the Santa Claus riding in the helicopter.
Myers said he purchased the displays with the intent to install them on around 2 acres of property he owns between Menards and North Ohio Street.
However, the lot doesn’t have electricity or good access for vehicles, and upgrading the area will cost over $8,000. Myers said he didn’t have the money this year to do that.
“This year, to my heartbreak, there won’t be any Christmas lights set up,” he said. “We’ve had a few setbacks this year, but we’ve stayed positive.”
Myers said We Care has been his family’s tradition since it started in 1972, and he’s gone to the park every year since it opened in 1993. He said that as a kid, he used to walk door to door collecting donations for the nonprofit.
Now, he wants his display to eventually raise money for the outreach, just like We Care Park did. Myers said all the money donated will go to We Care and other charities around Kokomo.
“It won’t be called We Care Park, because that was Mike’s thing,” he said. “I want to keep the tradition going, but I want to let him have his legacy.”
In the meantime, Myers said, he’ll likely have some of the displays set up at his house, located in Young America in Cass County. But next year, all those displays should be in Kokomo keeping the spirit of We Care Park alive, Myers said.
“I promise I will have everything ready and set up by next Thanksgiving for the next generation of Christmas lights,” he said.