Christmas in the Valley of Paradise

IN THE SPIRIT: Sunday’s Christmas in the Valley of Paradise schedule included horse-drawn wagon rides provided by Joe Smola and Clint Ohnoutka.

VALPARAISO – The Valley of Paradise was filled with a community celebration of Christmas put together in just a few short days by a pair of Valparaiso area women.

Erica Kobza and Dawn Twohig quickly planned an event called Christmas in the Valley of Paradise, which took place on Sunday night in Valparaiso. The festivities included horse drawn wagon rides, the official lighting of the town’s Christmas tree and lights in the park, a chili feed, visits with Santa, games, crafts and hot cocoa.

The pair dreamed up the idea on Dec. 3 as they watched their children perform in the school Christmas concert.

“We said we’d like to do something around the lighting of the tree and park,” said Kobza. “Let’s make an event out of it.”

Kobza credits Twohig for most of the organization, but others were also involved.

“It just sort of fell into place and everyone in the community pitched in,” she said.

With so little preparation time, there wasn’t much time to advertise the event. Kobza said they put up flyers and used social media, but were surprised by the number of people that showed up.

“It turned out actually to be really big,” she said.

At one point, the crowd overflowed out of the fire hall, with a line out the door. They had to add more tables and chairs to accommodate the multitudes, Kobza said.

The ladies are part of an organization in the community called the Valparaiso Area Fire Wives. Kobza said the group existed for decades but disbanded a few years ago.

As the wives of men who are volunteer firefighters in Valparaiso and career firefighters elsewhere, Kobza and Twohig informally resurrected the organization last February. Kobza’s husband, Brad, is a firefighter in Lincoln, while Twohig’s husband, Ryan, works for the Papillion Fire Department.

The Valparaiso Area Fire Wives have held several events since the first meeting, with about 15 women participating. Not all are of the members are wives of Valparaiso firefighters, Kobza said. Some are firefighters themselves. Others are connected to departments in other communities.

“We are all inclusive,” said Kobza. “You don’t have to be on our department.”

The public had such a good time at Christmas in the Valley of Paradise they want the event to return in 2020.

“Everyone was very complimentary and they would like us to do this next year,” Kobza said.

The group will spend a little more time planning and organizing next year’s Christmas event, however. But even with just a few days preparation, the organizers made Christmas in the Valley of Paradise a success.

“We had a vision of what a small community would look and feel like when everybody came together and celebrated Christmas,” Kobza said.

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