Kewanee, IL

Donation boosts Christmas decorations in local parks

Mike Berry

The Christmas decorations have come down at Windmont and Northeast parks in Kewanee, but organizers of the two displays are already thinking about 2023.

The displays in both parks have grown through the years, as new features have been added.

To help with that effort, Petersen Health Care held a fund-raiser last year. The chili and soup supper with a raffie raised $883, which was divided equally between the two parks.
Jeanna Moore, center, of Petersen Health Care, presented $883 to Tom Martineau and Dianne Packee, Northeast Park volunteers.Photo byMike Berry

Jeanna Moore, community relations coordinator for Petersen Health Care, presented the donation to Northeast Park volunteers Tom Martineau and Dianne Packee.

The holiday lighting began about 40 years ago when four couples who lived near Windmont — Henry and Fran Pickett, Buck and Eileen Hill, John and Brent Huffman and Bobbie and Alice Neirynck — put out luminaries around the park’s lagoon.

Because there was no power source in the park for lights, the first few years’ displays were limited to one evening of luminaries. When power was added, the footbridge over the lagoon was the focus, with lighted reindeer flying above it.

Now, there are enough lighted displays that it requires a walk around the lake to take everything in.

The focal point of the Windmont display is the bridge, which in recent years has been covered with lights and illuminated arches.

This year, the bridge shone especially brightly, as LED lighting was added.

At Northeast, the decorations began with some lighted figures that Tumbleson found at a farm near Prophetstown. Volunteers which again included people living near the park added more and more displays.

In recent years, offenders from the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center have created wooden figures depicting holiday revelers, cartoon characters and military personnel in uniform.

Those figures are illuminated by spotlights at night.

Recent additions have included a “tunnel” of light-covered metal arches created by American Steel, and a large illuminated page from a prayer book, donated by the Kull family.

Bobbie Neirynck was one of the prime movers in the development of the Windmont display. Every year he created the metal frame for a new item to be added to the park’s display.

That family tradition has been kept alive, as Bobbie’s grandson, Robbie Neirynck, has fabricated some new displays for Northeast Park.

This year Robbie fabricated a dinosaur designed by Tim Bryner.

“I’m sure Bob was smiling from up above on his grandson,” said Dianne Packee.

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I am retired after 45 years in the newspaper business. I am a 1972 graduate of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois.

Kewanee, IL

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