November 23, 2016 Edition

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Christmas in the Park improved,
expanded in memory of Wallin

Kim Martin (left) and Mark Hanson, representing Jumpstart Ministries, help assemble lighted displays for Christmas in the Park at Stewart Park in Walnut Ridge. The event is scheduled to open Friday night.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

A city and community effort to raise funds in memory of the late Michael "Button" Wallin has resulted in an improved and expanded Christmas in the Park display at Walnut Ridge's Stewart Park.

The effort has amounted to donations of some $36,500 for all new lights and displays. In addition, the city of Walnut Ridge voted to contribute $10,000 to the project for a total of $46,455.

Kimberly Wallin, Button's daughter, proposed the idea for the effort in memory of her father and because of "the dedication and love that dad had for Walnut Ridge" and his love of Christmas and hanging Christmas lights at the family home, she stated. Button was a former member of the Walnut Ridge City Council and had a special interest in park improvements.

"My vision for Christmas in the Park is to grow each year in bringing people from various places who travel during the holidays to view beautiful Christmas light displays, and hopefully, they will spend money on food and take time to do shopping."

Mayor Charles Snapp agreed with Kimberly, stating that the park attraction will bring people to town. He said the holiday attraction is scheduled to open to the public on Friday evening after dark, although he added that some of the lights and signs may not all be in place at that time.

On Saturday, Mayor Snapp, his wife, Jackie, and City Recorder/Treasurer Sharon Henson were grilling hot dogs to serve lunch to a crew of over 40 men who are affiliated with Jumpstart Ministries, as current participants, graduates and staff. They worked alongside city employees from the street department to assemble and set up the displays.

Jumpstart Ministries helps men with drug and alcohol addictions turn their lives around by pointing them to Jesus Christ, according to their website. "We just like to do things for the community," said Danny Whitmire of Jumpstart, regarding their volunteer service.

Mayor Snapp said Christmas lighting displays were last purchased for the park in 2007.

Snapp said that city police will be patrolling the park and that stiff fines of $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for the second offense will be enforced for any vandalism related to the displays.

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