Christmas comes to Panther Creek Park
By Jacob Mulliken, Messenger-Inquirer
The 2020 Christmas at Panther Creek Park continues to break records and is expecting its busiest night on Thursday.
In its first weekend, the event drew 783 carloads of eager holiday spectators raising $3,912. At the end of its first 10 days, the event has brought in about $14,000, said Daviess County Parks and Recreation Director Ross Leigh.
“We have collected over $12,000,” he said. “In reality, it is closer to $14,000 given that we will be reimbursed by Owensboro Health and Swedish Match for the passes that they gave their employees. We won’t collect on those invoices until Jan. 3 when the event is over. Those business partnerships are great to not only bolster our numbers but will really help those five nonprofits that are on the cusp of receiving bigger checks than we have ever given out. I will be surprised if they don’t each receive over $4,000 apiece.”
While the event has been consistently busy and seen high numbers, the parks department is expecting what may be its biggest day yet on Thursday during Owensboro Health Community Night, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m., said Leigh.
“We are going to up our staff at the event to help get traffic through,” he said. “Thursday night is free for the community to come out and enjoy. Thursday will also be another great benefit through this partnership given that the parks department will track the cars and Owensboro Health will reimburse us. We have really had the opportunity to make Christmas at Panther Creek Park everything we can stand to make it, and with our corporate partners, we have really been able to build upon a great tradition in Owensboro- Daviess County.”
The parks department and Daviess Fiscal Court use Christmas at Panther Creek to support area nonprofits. This year’s organizations are the Owensboro Lions Club, The Arc of Owensboro Inc./Opportunity Center, Joe Ford Nature Center, New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services and the Stanley Playground Association. It is really a great opportunity for these nonprofits, especially given the year they have had, said Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.
This past weekend set another record with 800 cars coming through on Saturday night, averaging roughly four cars per minute, said Leigh, leaving some to have to turn around because of the long line.
“We have never seen this,” he said. “It is a good problem to have. It is something folks can do that is safe, fun and really unchanged by COVID-19. It is tradition.”