Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Tradition living at new residence

Christmas display moves 100 miles

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — The spirit of Christmas is on the move, from the hollows of Adams County to the suburbs of Butler County.

        Still, it remains rooted firmly in faith and the family and a deep appreciation for life.

[photo] Bob and Janet Niederman of Liberty Township liken the Christmas display as a walk through the Bible.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        Robert Niederman's farm, in a still-rural area of this rapidly developing township, now holds most of the massive Christmas display that once attracted thousands to the farm of Carl and Judy Rudd in Blue Creek. For three decades, Mr. Rudd delighted people across the Tristate with his displays' simplicity and overwhelming size — 1 million lights and many large figures in the hills.

        Mr. Rudd developed Alzheimer's disease two years ago, and the family decided to end the display and sell hundreds of Christmas items at an auction.

        Mr. Niederman bought most of the items, including five of eight of Mr. Rudd's 9-foot angels.

        “Six trailer loads filled with the stuff,” Mr. Niederman said. “We transported it the 100 miles up here and refurbished the angels. We worked hard. We wanted to continue what Carl had started.”

        The Niederman display is “a walk through the Bible with a series of 12 pictures along with the figures depicting the Biblical part of Christmas,” he said.

        “There's nothing wrong with Christmas lights and displays, but ours is really what Christmas is all about. It's an easy walk — the equivalent of five or six blocks. Not as much as some people walk to do their shopping.”

        The display has been a hit with visitors, including the Rudds, who visited Monday night.

[photo] Carl and Judy Rudd know that fewer people will come to his farm this season.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        While discussing Christmas over the years, Mr. Niederman and his wife, Janet, became friends with the Rudds. The couples inspired each other with their efforts, even though their backgrounds are different.

        Mr. Rudd's farm is small and basic. The Niedermans' place is larger — 463 acres — and better equipped. It is one of the last remaining dairy farms in Liberty Township and the home of four generations.

        But both families share a love for the holiday.

        “The blessings of God have truly been poured on us this past year,” Mrs. Rudd said. “Carl's Alzheimer's is much better.”

Sharing with public

        The Niederman family is no stranger to celebrating Christmas with the public. For 20 years they've opened a 125-year-old barn on the family dairy farm for use by a church, which conducts a service there at Christmastime.

        The service represents Christ's birth, and gives people a chance to greet one another for the holidays. This year, the barn will be used Dec. 21 by the Lakota Christian Church.

        Because this is the first year of his display, Mr. Niederman said it's difficult to predict how many people will show up at the family's farm. He has a parking lot, so parking shouldn't be a problem.

        "We're going to try to figure a way to help people around the field if they're unable to walk,” he said. “I wouldn't want someone to stay away just because he can't walk.

        At his place, Mr. Rudd has booked a dozen gospel groups, including the Mullins Family of Middletown, to sing on various days. And there will be a Christmas display in his garage.

        That's how his original Blue Creek display started, with only 3,500 lights. He added to that number every year, and attracted more people. By 1982, about 100,000 people had stopped to see the display, and by the late 1990s the number had increased to an estimated 200,000 a year.

        He knows that fewer people will come to his farm this year, but he doesn't mind.

        “We thought how nice it would be to go back about 30 years and have a place where people could come see the beauty of the mountains,” he said. “They'd see the true meaning of Christmas. ...

        “And that's what we plan to do.”

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