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Sights set on 2013 after successful courthouse lighting, Christmas parade

The Christmas lighting display on the Jasper County Courthouse is still lit, but thoughts already are moving toward plans for the 2013 lighting ceremony and Lighted Christmas Parade.

“Events like the Lighted Christmas Parade are a perfect example of the business community in action, making Newton a great place to live and work,” Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darrell Sarmento said. “We wish to thank all of the businesses who sponsored the parade as well as the volunteers who made this a special night for the community.”

Sarmento said more than 2,000 attended the event despite bitterly cold temperatures and a biting wind. He said he was very impressed with the hours of work that obviously went into a number of the parade entries this year.

“The parade entries were awesome this year,” he said. “Folks really went the extra mile to make this a fun night for the families in Newton.”

This year’s event featured the Second Annual Young Professionals of Jasper County Chili Cook-Off, which was judged by the Newton Fire Department. First place went to Regina Sarmento cooking on behalf of the Chamber, while Black Hills Energy and The Lighting Store took second and third, respectively.

“Our group raised $150 from our sales of hot chocolate which will all be donated to Steve Knight for the courthouse lighting fund,” YPJC President Amanda Price said. “We believe it is truly important to keep this tradition alive for generations to come, and we want to help the community grow and thrive in whatever way possible.”

She went on to say the courthouse lighting and parade are special to the Newton community and should be seen as “one of our finest traditions.”

“To quote one of our group members, ‘It is so Norman Rockwell,’” Price added. “She is not originally from Newton, but it goes to show how important our traditions are to those looking to move here and raise a family.”

For more information about becoming a YPJC member, contact Price at via email.

Sarmento also wanted to thank C.J. Fox and his crew at The Lighting Store for providing the sound system and projection screen for caroling around the courthouse. The annual event is led by Courthouse Lighting Committee chairman Steve Knight.

“Due to the cold weather we didn’t break our record of 420 singers,” Knight said. “But we sure had fun trying. Temperatures were low but spirits were high.”

Like Sarmento, Knight gave the overall event a thumbs-up in spite of the cold weather. The lighting display, which is largely unchanged from the past several years, “looked great,” he said.

“This year, we put up some new garland, and that looked really nice,” he said. “This was the 20th year since we got the lights back up again, and everything looked great.”

Donations more than covered this year’s display, which costs a minimum of $14,000 each year for putting up and taking down the lights, as well as for paying for the cost of electricity. Each year, the goal is to have that year’s display paid for in advance, Knight said.

“About a week and a half ago, we were around $5,500 in donations,” he said. “With the contingency from last year, we’re probably right around halfway to what we need for next year ... There’s always such and outpouring of donations, and we’re very thankful for that.”

Ultimately, Knight said he would like to see if a switch to LED lights would be feasible. When he last checked, the cost making such a change was prohibitive — more than $6,000. So, in the meantime, the display will continue with the existing 25-watt colored bulbs.

“To change all of the bulbs to LED, we’re talking about 1,700 bulbs,” he said. “Three years ago, the price for the size bulb we use was $3.80 per bulb ... and there were also concerns that the diodes wouldn’t be able to project the light like it needs to be.”

Looking ahead, Knight said he is hopeful there will be enough money available to repair and refurbish the arches, which are in need of some welding. He also hopes to have enough on hand to pay for regular upkeep of the historic “Merry Christmas” signs that are hung at each of the Courthouse’s entrances.

“We will need to refurbish the light strands, too. Some of them get cracks in them due to ice and wind storms over the years,” he said. “We’re not looking to elaborately change the display in any way, just to upkeep what we have.”

Bob Eschliman can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 423 or via email at

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