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Rich Polesel's Nativity display at 6838 N. County Road 200E, Whiteland.
Rich Polesel's Nativity display at 6838 N. County Road 200E, Whiteland. PHOTO BY JOSH MARSHALL

Vehicles whipped by on Interstate 65 on the cold December evening.

Rich Polesel watched the headlights from his rural Whiteland barn. He took a break from tending his cattle and stared at the cars on Christmas night. Suddenly, he had a revelation. All those trucks, police cars and others were out traveling on Christmas. Even though they couldn’t be at home, maybe they could still get some holiday cheer.

That was the start of Polesel’s massive holiday display. Centered around a Nativity scene built in the hayloft of his barn, the showcase features candy canes, the three wise men and a choir of 12 angels singing on his porch.

He calls it “The Reason” and said he hopes to give people a sense of what the holidays are about.

“It makes me happy that people are getting a chance to see it and taking the time to see it, slowing down a little during a very busy season to think about what’s really there,” he said.

Polesel has decorated his yard, house and barn every year since 1977. With four children, it became a tradition for the kids to help drag the strings of lights, illuminated candles and toy soldiers into place.

On top of the excitement of Christmas, two of his kids have birthdays book-ending the holiday on Dec. 24 and 26.

“We have a three-day birthday party in December,” Polesel said.

Setup starts in November, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Usually, it takes only a few days to get all of the cords checked, the light bulbs replaced and the Nativity scene secured.

Polesel’s property is easily seen from all around Whiteland, including the interstate, which makes his location on County Road 200E a popular stop during the season.

He likes to think of his decorations as a beacon for people who are out and about.

“All these guys are having to work or travel on Christmas, this is for you. If you can’t come home for Christmas, at least drive by,” he said.

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