Night to Shine

Michigan resident James Foley is all smiles as he walks down the red carpet to kick off his evening at Friday’s Night to Shine event in Shipshewana in this file photo from February 2020.

SHIPSHEWANA — With less than a month to go, the group of people behind LaGrange County Night to Shine 2021 are putting the final touches on this year’s celebration.

This year’s Night to Shine will be a little different than it has been in past years, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The annual celebration traditionally would take place in a large hall, but coronavirus safety protocols made that impossible this time around.

This year’s Night to Shine happens on Friday, Feb. 12, from 6-8 p.m. But instead of a big, extravagant indoor event, this year it becomes a drive-through event, moving to the Shipshewana Trading Place Antique Auction barn. Guests and their drivers will be directed to pull into the Trading Place parking lot, and slowly follow the path through the property toward the auction barn where they will join in the celebration.

LaGrange County Night to Shine organizer Allisa Brown said the Tim Tebow Foundation, the creators of Night to Shine, encouraged local groups like hers to reinvent the annual celebration for the local special needs community.

Brown said her group completely recreated the local event. Night to Shine has been a huge local success over the last five years.

Sponsored by the LaGrange Church of God, Brown’s committee started working last spring to reimagine the local celebration. She said her group has worked hard to embrace pandemic safety protocols while at the same time trying to ensure everyone who attends this year’s event will still have a night to remember.

“I know a lot of people have reached out to me worried that it’s not going to be what the guests are used to, but we’ve got a lot of fun things planned,” she explained.

The pandemic safety protocols mean many events that have traditionally been at the heart of the local celebration won’t be happening this year, like dancing with friends on a tightly packed dance floor, but Brown said that doesn’t mean guests won’t have fun.

“Obviously, they can’t get out and dance on the dance floor, or be paired with a buddy, but the community in Shipshewana has been amazing to us again this year. The Blue Gate and the Riegsecker family, the Lambright family, they’ve gone above and beyond to help us make this event a reality again this year and we’re excited about that.”

Guests and their drivers will be asked to stay in their cars for the duration of their time at Night to Shine. They will arrive at the Trading Place property just off of S.R. 5 in Shipshewana and be instructed to tune into a special local radio station used for Night to Shine. Once they wind their way to the entrance of the auction building, vehicles will enter one at a time, and start winding their way through several special events.

“It’s going to be fun,” Brown promised.

Each guest’s first stop, like always, will be on a large red carpet where names will be announced. The second stop is a photo booth.

Guests also will receive a small meal of snack items as well as a goodie bag filled with items.

Night to Shine is an international event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation now in its sixth year. The program was created to offer people with special needs at least one night a year to feel like kings and queens. Local events are sponsored by local churches. Last year, more than 700 churches around the world joined in the celebration and hosted more than 100,000 guests.

Because the pandemic turned this year’s celebration into a drive-through event, Brown said her organization needed fewer buddies who typically volunteer and are assigned to personally accompany each guest.

This Tim Tebow Foundation pushed groups like the one in LaGrange to create pandemic safe events this year. The foundation will host a virtual event that same night online. Guests participating in the LaGrange County event will be encouraged to go home after the local celebration and then join in the Tim Tebow Foundation’s online celebration.

“Tim Tebow will have a virtual event and we’ll give them a link so they can watch that at home,” Brown explained. “He has a bunch of fun things planned for them, and they’ll all get crowned by him at the end of the night.”

Brown said the LaGrange County event is welcoming guests from other communities where other annual Night to Shine events might have been canceled due to the pandemic.

“We know not every community has a large barn and giving community like ours to use,” she explained. “ “We are extremely grateful to the Shipshewana Antique Auction Barn and the people at the Blue Gate for their help in making this an awesome drive-through event.”

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