Lawton_Lawton citizens say they are ready to stand their ground against gang members who don't want to see the Holiday in the Park come to Elmer Thomas Park this year. It all started with last week's arson of the "Christmas House on the Prairie" building.
The community has come together to rebuild the destroyed building and residents aren't giving up on the lighting ceremony despite the fact that these gang members have expressed their discontent. The ceremony is just three weeks away.
Pioneer Ladies of Lawton, Oklahoma member Vivion Henderson has been hard at work on her display, but she says the gangs don't want them there. "I feel like they think this is their park, so to speak," she says. "So I can see why that they would be unhappy with us."
This is the first year for the Holiday in the Park at Elmer Thomas and the citizens of Lawton say they will see it all come together. "This is a city park and it doesn't matter who says something's not going to happen here - the citizens of Lawton are going to make this happen," says Jay Burk, Event Chairman.
A lot is going on in the park to prepare. Displays are going up all over the park and construction on the new "Christmas House on the Prairie" building will begin next week. The city is getting ready, too. They're putting in a new 57,000 square foot recycled asphalt parking lot and 100 foot lighted archway at the Third Street entrance to the park. I
The city doesn't intend to let anything happen to all this hard work. "The patrols that will be provided from the police department will be increased in the area. There will be some lights that will be left on consistently throughout the time of the holiday season," says Kim Shahan from Lawton Parks and Recreation.
Shahan says threats are nothing new to the community. "There's always going to be people who oppose certain things in every area. And so we're just going to proceed and fulfill the goal of what Elmer Thomas Park is for - it's a recreational site, an activity site for our community," says Shahan.
And, Henderson says that is what Holiday in the Park is all about - giving Lawton a sense of community. "I think that people will go ahead and participate, hoping that the gangs will see that maybe Lawton does need more activity," she says.