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Lighting the courthouse, a festive tradition

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ON THE ROOF: Greg Harnish of Quality Electric works on the courthouse roof as lights are lifted to him.
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HOLD IT STEADY: Mike Hagey and Jody Caudill hold lights steady on a pulley system as they are lifted to the courthouse roof and tower.





The Wabash County Courthouse lighting may still be two weeks away, but crews were out in the cold last Tuesday hanging strands of colorful lightbulbs along the courthouse dome in preparation of this year’s Nights to Remember. 

The annual tradition is a popular one in Wabash County, originating in 1938.

“We were just coming out the Great Depression,” said Plain Dealer columnist Pete Jones. “Money was scarce, but some here thought the town needed something cheerful for the holidays.” So the Wabash Chamber of Commerce started a fundraising campaign to light the courthouse. 

The tradition started with little fanfare but has since grown into what it is today: The evening typically starts with remarks from local representatives and several songs from the children’s choir, drawing hundreds to the courthouse lawn. Santa will often make an appearance, and downtown restaurants and shops will host their own holiday specials that night in coordination with the courthouse lighting. Those festivities will take place this year on Friday, Nov. 16 and continue the next day with shopping specials.

The courthouse lighting ceremony is funded by the County each year. 

Commissioner Scott Givens said he has fond memories of his own, having attended the ceremony since he was a child. .

“Santa Claus arrives on a city fire truck and the lights come on at the same time,” he said. “That’s Santa’s signal to show up after the speeches. It gives a good meeting place to start everybody for shopping downtown and all of the merchants stay open late that night. It’s a lot of fun down there.”

Even the crews hanging lights and decorating the courthouse lawn enjoy themselves.

“I’m just amazed at the beauty of it,” said Larry Hoover, CEO of Quality Electric, which hangs the lights each year. “Coming in from out of town ... to me, it looks like a giant Christmas tree with the ornaments on the top and the lights on the tower.

“I think it’s a real asset to the community and people really enjoy seeing it.”