It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the City of Hammond where the holiday season will herald in the return of a local Christmas tradition in one of the city’s beloved parks.
“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from TEAM Hammond” is the theme for the 18th annual event which transforms Hammond’s Zemurray Park into a winter wonderland.
This year’s event opens Nov. 30 and runs through Dec. 23, Mayor Mayson Foster said. Weeknights will feature walking and driving tours through the lights, while weekends are jam-packed with music, entertainment, and special events to celebrate the holiday season.
This year’s event is especially significant, as it will mark the “reopening” of Zemurray Park to the public.
Closed late this spring, Zemurray Park has undergone a half-million dollar facelift, including a dramatic redevelopment of the Zemurray Park Pond.
The park was closed this summer, forcing the cancellation of Hammond’s annual 4th of July Fireworks spectacular, but Foster said the park is now ready to reopen, just in time for the annual holiday lighting.
“Our TEAM Hammond Christmas committee assures me that this year’s lighting project will be second to none, and we are excited to be able to reopen Zemurray Park with this great Hammond tradition,” Foster said.
Established in 1994 by the late Mayor “Tippy” DePaula, the annual lighting has become a Hammond Christmas tradition. Often-compared to New Orleans’ annual lighting of City Park, the Hammond display has become a family-oriented, smaller-scale program which attracts thousands of visitors to the park each December.
Foster said a highlight for all ages is the annual return of the Peggy Lee, Hammond’s original miniature train which travels through the park drawing wide-eyed amusement and excitement from riders and those waiting to board, as well. The train was a fixture in Zemurray Park until the 1970s, when it fell into disrepair. After a series of changes in ownership, the train was purchased by Hammond residents G.F. and Peggy Tycer, who donated it back to the City in the mid-1990s. Over the last 12 years, through three city administrations, the train has been restored, repaired, and maintained specifically for this time of year.
Admission is free. Snacks and other items are available on site for purchase.
Foster said the event opens Friday, Nov. 30, with a ceremonial “lighting” at 5 p.m., after which the lights will remain on until 9 p.m. that evening. The park is open until 9 p.m. daily throughout the event.
Foster thanked the Hammond City Council and TEAM Hammond department volunteers who began working on this project shortly after the 4th of July in preparation for this event. The mayor invites the public to come participate in Hammond’s own holiday tradition over the course of the coming weeks.
Other upcoming holiday events planned in Hammond include:
*Nov. 16: Hammond DDD’s Starry November Night. For information, contact the Downtown Development District at (985) 277-5680, ext. 2 or online at www.dddhammond.com
*Dec. 1: Hammond Chamber Christmas Parade. For registration information, contact the Chamber at (985) 345-4457 or online at www.hammondchamber.org
*Dec. 7-8: Hammond Ballet Company production of “The Nutcracker.” Ticket information available online at www.hammondballet.com and www.columbiatheatre.org
For more information about the display of holiday lights in Zemurray Park, please contact Hammond City Hall at (985) 277-5600, Hammond Area Recreation Department at (985) 277-5900, or the City of Hammond website, www.hammond.org.