Vandals offered forgiveness for damage at Knightstown Christmas display

This is the first year for "Christmas at the Academy" in Knightstown. (WTHR photo/Rich Nye)

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. (WTHR) - More than 60 trees decorated by the community bring Christmas spirit to the Academy Place senior living center in Knightstown.

Weekend vandalism has only brought the small town closer together to support what will become an annual tradition.

Businesses, churches, schools and other community organizations sponsored and decorated more than 60 Christmas trees for the first annual Christmas at the Academy, which opened December 1 and runs through the end of the year. There is no admission charge.

"Everybody loves Christmas, and everybody loves this building," said Kevin Richey, Academy Place Community Outreach Coordinator. "It has a lot of rich history."

The Knightstown school, built in 1875, was still an elementary school into the 1980s. It is now called Academy Place, a senior living and community center with 38 units.

Rich Nye WTHR 13 is at Christmas at the Academy at Academy Place Knightstown. Community businesses and organizations...

Posted by WTHR-TV on Monday, December 9, 2019

Bonnie Chew has lived at Academy Place for almost a decade.

"It's like Wonderland," Chew described the Christmas display. "We've never seen anything like this in all the years that we've lived here."

The trees, as well as gingerbread houses crafted by school children, are on display 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Weekend activities include craft workshops, live Christmas music performances and visits from Santa Claus on Sunday evenings.

The Christmas trees are uniquely and beautifully decorated and spread out over all three floors of the historic school building. The double staircase is worth the view for those who don't require an elevator.

Many trees are decorated with themes pertaining the business or organization sponsor. On Sundays, visitors can vote for their favorite tree for a penny. All donations help the non-profit organization with future community events.

"Oh, I think it's wonderful," said Academy Place Resident Lou Ann McDonald. "I've enjoyed every minute of it."

But outside, vandals tore down and damaged some candy cane lights early Sunday morning. A $1,000 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction, or forgiveness if the grinches turn themselves in.

"If you want to come forward and apologize, we'll let you choose a local charity to donate the $1,000 to and right your wrong," said Knightstown Police Chief Chris Newkirk. "I think that making that into a life lesson is a great way to show that this community is really about helping one another."

Organizers hope their peace offering in the spirit of Christmas will be accepted. Newkirk said he has a lead on a group of juveniles who may be responsible for the vandalism.