Bulb fund-raiser helping city pay for new Christmas wreath for park

The Wreath Re-creation Committee is a local group working to produce a new version of the Wolf & Dessauer Merry Christmas wreath that illuminated Huntington’s Sunken Gardens during the holidays from 1998 to 2017. Members of the committee hold light bulbs from the original wreath, which is no longer useable, that have been converted into keepsakes and are being sold to fund the construction of the new wreath. Pictured are (from left) committee members Mike Keplinger, Sherry Keplinger, Barb Drummond, Dan Drummond, Terry Sappington, Seth Kimmel and Steve Yoder.
The Wreath Re-creation Committee is a local group working to produce a new version of the Wolf & Dessauer Merry Christmas wreath that illuminated Huntington’s Sunken Gardens during the holidays from 1998 to 2017. Members of the committee hold light bulbs from the original wreath, which is no longer useable, that have been converted into keepsakes and are being sold to fund the construction of the new wreath. Pictured are (from left) committee members Mike Keplinger, Sherry Keplinger, Barb Drummond, Dan Drummond, Terry Sappington, Seth Kimmel and Steve Yoder. Photo by Steve Clark.

The Merry Christmas wreath that illuminated Sunken Gardens for 20 years has gone permanently dark.

But anyone who appreciated the light it cast each holiday season will now be able to own a piece of it.

And by purchasing one of those pieces, the construction of a new Merry Christmas wreath gets closer to being paid for.

Light bulbs from the original wreath are being sold. The sale has been organized by the Wreath Re-creation Committee, a local group that formed in February and has worked toward manufacturing a new wreath to replace the original one, which was built in 1937.

The original wreath decorated the exteriors of the former Wolf & Dessauer buildings, first in Fort Wayne and then in downtown Huntington. After the department store closed in 1969, the wreath moved to the side of the former Huntington First National Bank building. Following a decade in storage, it joined the Christmas display at Sunken Gardens in 1998.

After a 20-year run lighting up Sunken Gardens at Christmastime, 81 years of wear and tear finally caught up with the wreath in 2018; its frame and wiring had both deteriorated.

“It was very dangerous,” remarks Steve Yoder, Wreath Re-creation Committee member and superintendent of Huntington Parks and Recreation. “We had a couple fires … We were definitely past the point of using it again.”

While the wreath may be retired, members of the Wreath Re-creation Committee decided that reclaiming its incandescent bulbs and selling them as keepsakes would be an inspired way to help pay for a new wreath, which is being constructed by a team at Huntington Sheet Metal under the direction of owners Dan and Barb Drummond.

The bulbs are available in the colors of red, green, white and clear. The process of preparing the lights for sale featured con-
tributions from Pathfinder Services, which adhered loops to the bulbs so that they can hold hooks, and TCP, which created a stamp of the Wolf & Dessauer logo; the bulbs now feature the department store’s distinctive emblem.

The wreath contained over 3,000 bulbs and the committee picked out the units that were in the nicest condition to sell to the public. A total of 450 bulbs are currently available for purchase.

The following locations are selling bulbs:

Huntington City Building, mayor’s office, 300 Cherry St., Huntington.

Huntington City Services Building, 634 Webster St., Huntington.

Huntington County Chamber of Commerce, 305 Warren St., Huntington.

Mike’s Car Care Center, 1745 Etna Ave., Huntington.

TCP, 46 Vine St., Huntington.

All proceeds from the bulb sale will go toward the new wreath. While the recreated display looks identical to the original, it has been built with modern, lightweight materials and is lit with LED bulbs. The wreath has also been programmed with 10 different animations.

The committee has been seeking donations for the new wreath since April.

“We had individuals give us as little as $20, which we certainly appreciate, and we had folks give us $1,000,” shares committee member Seth Kimmel. “And everything in between. It really was a community project of individuals all the way up to some of the biggest businesses in Huntington County.”

The new wreath is on track to be finished and installed at Sunken Gardens during the week of Nov. 11. It will be lit for the first time at the annual Sunken Gardens Lighting Ceremony, which is set for Sunday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. The event will feature Christmas carols by the Huntington County Children’s Choir, as well as complementary candy canes and hot apple cider.

After Sunken Gardens didn’t have a working wreath last year, the committee is excited to rectify that this year, providing the site with a display that should illuminate it for decades to come.

“Everybody has, like, kind of taken it by the horns and just did their part,” says Yoder of the project. “It’s really been a group effort, a community effort, to get this done.”