VALPARAISO — Piper, a Chihuahua-Dachshund mix, poked her head out of the front of Rachele Watson’s coat.
“She’s less than five pounds, so I have a sweater and a jacket on her,” said Watson, of Valparaiso.
Piper, Watson, and Watson’s daughter, Cassie, 5, were all bundled up Saturday night for Valpo Parks 2nd annual Luminary Walk.
Stars sparkled in the clear, night sky, while 1,200 flickering LED luminaries lined either side of the 3/4 mile Vale Park West Pathway that crosses over Beauty Creek between Windsor Park and Keystone Commons subdivisions.
The pathway, which opened in November 2016, invited folks out for a brief evening stroll, and volunteers welcomed them to enjoy complimentary cookies and hot chocolate. Live music, including Trinity Lutheran Church’s Trinity Choral-Aires, The Jingle Tones, and Calumet Ridge Jazz Ensemble musicians, entertained the crowd strolling the pathway.
The luminary walk is the brainchild of Helene Pierce, Valpo Parks executive assistant, who was inspired by her grandmother, who “loved luminaries.”
“Every Christmas Eve, we would line her driveway with luminaries,” said Pierce, of Valparaiso. “She lived in Florida, so it was much easier.”
When Pierce learned that Carmel, Indiana, hosted a luminary walk several years ago, she knew it could be done “on a larger scale.”
When the pathway opened in November 2016, parks director John Seibert gave Pierce the go-ahead to plan the event.
“Any time you can bring the community together, do something healthy in the middle of winter, and celebrate the holidays, it’s a trifecta,” Pierce said. “Last year we had a really great turnout and people enjoyed talking with their neighbors and taking a stroll at night.”
Pierce said the parks department hoped to see more than 1,000 people enjoy the evening, since the temperatures were mild.
“We could not do this if we didn’t have the support of the community to come out and enjoy it,” Pierce said.
Rachele Watson said she had never heard of the pathway, but she and her daughter took advantage of the nice weather to discover it.
“Daddy is working afternoons, so we came out to get some fresh air and do something fun,” Watson said.
Daniel and Mary Mellady and their son Benjamin, 3, and daughter Grace, 2, came from Westville to enjoy the evening.
“We’re going on a nature trail,” said Benjamin, clutching a cup of hot chocolate. “I love going down to the bridge.”
It was the family’s first time at the event.
“We like making memories together,” Mary Mellady said.