VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — For the last several years, volunteers at the Indiana Military Museum have considered decorating a lamppost at Gregg Park — a popular local tradition — among its greatest priorities.

Nestled underneath one of the park's 22 posts, they place a giant holiday card signed by several volunteers, their names slightly faded after years of use. And next to it, the silhouette of a soldier kneeling in prayer.

"We do the very same thing every year," said IMM volunteer Howard Lanam, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who leads the effort alongside fellow volunteer J.D. Strange.

"And we do it because we feel that's the best message we can send, to remind people not to forget those who have served. It's a duty for us."

"And at Christmastime, it's always important to think about the troops that are serving across the world," said IMM founder and curator Judge Jim Osborne. "They can't be home with their families at Christmas. So this is our way to remind people to remember them."

Officials with the city's Parks and Recreation Department have for the last 12 years been inviting local businesses, organizations and even families to come out and decorate the lampposts in an effort to bring a little extra Christmas cheer.

It was the brainchild of the late Jerry Street, a former maintenance director for the parks.

And with themes of all kinds, the decorations also offer local families a much-loved holiday tradition.

"This is something we've always enjoyed," said Steve Beaman, park superintendent. "I think back to when I was a child, and we would always have a night or two through the holidays where we would drive around town and look at the lights.

"I always think of that when I see four or five cars driving slowly through the park, looking at the lampposts, kids peeking out from the backseat," he said. "It brings back so many happy memories."

Most of the 22 posts, Beaman said, are decorated by the same organizations and businesses each year. New ones, however, work their way in most every year.

And they don't just toss some lights on and go, he said.

"And a lot of them put in so much effort," Beaman said. "They're not just wrapping garland and lights around a pole.

They really do take some time."

Beth Merry Worland has led the effort for First Church of God, 1408 E. St. Clair St., for the last two years. Carrying over a new idea from last year, volunteers transformed the pole into a cross, covered it in white lights, and set up a brightly-colored manger scene at its base.

"It's a really simple design," she said, "but Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus, so we wanted to highlight that for people. We take a lot of pride in what (the holiday) stands for.

"We see this as an opportunity to reach out to the community and remind them that Christ really is the reason for the season."

___

Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial

___

Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com