More than 1 million lights will be turned on Friday when the Niederman Family Farm 12th annual Christmas Walk opens to the public.
But one shining light will be missing from this year’s display, which draws thousands of people each year.
Bob Niederman, one of the founding family members of the event and the only son of Bob and Janet Niederman, died in December – midway through the unique event, which focuses on the Bible and the birth of Jesus Christ. Niederman, 45, died of cancer, leaving behind his wife, Bethann, and their five children.
“It has been a difficult year. It really has,” his father said. “He was always such an important part of this display from the very first year. Now, he is not here to help run things.
“But it proves one thing: We are not in control – God is.”
From his paintball course to his corn mazes to the football field he erected for local Pee Wee Football teams, the late Bob Niederman touched many lives in the region.
His visitation at Center Pointe Christian Church in Liberty Township attracted so many people that some waited in line five hours to pay their respects.
Also in town that weekend was the Niedermans’ extended family. It marked the first time that all 16 grandchildren were together and the first time that some of them experienced the walk.
Seeing the faces of people who enjoyed the walk was extra special for grandson Brian Garver, who for eight years has led a group of volunteers setting up the event, only to return to his youth ministry in Pennsylvania before it begins.
This year, Garver and his team of 50 local volunteers set up the display in 10 days (Nov. 8-18).
“The thing that I miss is getting to see people’s faces when they walk into the barn and say how much they appreciate it,” Garver said. “I was able to see a little bit of that last year when I was back for Bob’s funeral. It was definitely bittersweet.”
In 2001, after the family spent thousands of dollars on three 400-amp transmitters to handle all the lights and on the purchase and refurbishing of life-sized Nativity figurines, the event began with the goal to spread the true meaning of Christmas.
“I can remember the first year, we had a man come in the barn crying,” Janet Niederman said. “He said, he hadn’t been to church for years and this was so meaningful. You hope that people would enjoy it in that respect and realize there is more to Christmas than just the commercial side of it.”
The barn also serves as an entertainment center, where volunteers perform holiday music and serve free cookies and hot chocolate.
“We always looked for a Christmas gift that we could give back to the community,” Garver said. “That is why we do this. It is our Christmas gift to the community.”
IF YOU GO
What: Niederman Family Farm 12th annual Christmas Walk, a free walk-through Christmas display that features a life-size Nativity and several Biblical scenes. In addition, there are hundreds of decorated trees and live animals.
When: Friday through Dec. 30; 6-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: 5110 LeSourdesville-West Chester Road, Liberty Township.
Directions: From Cincinnati, take Intersate 75 north to Exit 24 (Ohio 129 west); go 5.2 miles to Exit 21 (Ohio 747) toward Middletown. Turn right on Princeton-Glendale Road. Go 2.5 miles. Turn right on Kyles Station Road. Go left through roundabout onto Lesourdsville-West Chester Road; farm is on right (look for lighted arches),
Admission and parking: Free. A barn-shaped bank is available for visitors to leave a donation.
There’s more: In the barn, volunteers play holiday music, give out free cookies and free hot chocolate. The walking path is wheel chair and stroller accessible.