Seeing the Lights

One of my favorite things to do in winter is take a drive after dark and see the lights on display. In my hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wis., driving through the light displays in Irvine Park is an annual Christmas Eve tradition, and it’s one that numerous communities are starting to embrace as a means of sharing the goodwill and joy of the season.

Locally, the Kiwanis started a holiday light display in Sibley Park a few years ago, and it’s become another annual tradition. The Kiwanis Holiday Lights provide nightly entertainment for the darkest month, and there’s something for everyone.

We took our family to see the lights for the first time this season last night.

The girls noticed the lit-up Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a single reindeer first. But as we drove through the front gate, they started chattering excitedly about the Disney characters they could see on display in the miniature horse enclosure.

We pulled up to the night’s volunteers (who collect donations for area charities; last night’s was a favorite of ours, The Reach), handed them a donation, and accepted a program that detailed the events of the night and the sponsors of the program. We obediently tuned our car radio to the dedicated frequency set for the park, and proceeded, headlights off, to the parking lot next to the warming house, where we could stop, get out, and start our stroll through the wonderland.

The girls hurriedly bundled up in their warm weather gear, and we made our way to the marked path that took us first through the main body of the “farm” part of the park.

In warmer weather, Sibley houses several varieties of young farm animals for feeding and petting, right next to its farm-themed playground. By night in the winter, these paths are lined with lights, and the enclosures filled with things like ice sculptures, the Disney display mentioned earlier, and live reindeer, which are penned in behind much higher fences than usually found at the park.

The live reindeer, in fact, were C’s favorite, and she wanted to come back to them again and again over the course of the night. We saw them first, then strolled along to the warming house, where volunteers served up hot drinks, popcorn, and mini-donuts next to Jack Skellington and his company. We bought a bag of hot mini-donuts, and another of popcorn, to share while we looked out the large picture windows to the view of the Grand Lawn, adorned with the tall tree made of lights.

When we were warm, we headed back outside to stroll down the metal platform path onto the lawn itself. It rang merrily with the girls’ boots as they tried to run (and were firmly told to use walking feet). Many giggles accompanied selfies on the bridge, and then we scampered back to our car so that we could drive through the rest.

We listened to the music on the radio as the lights danced in tune, driving slowly through the display so that we could really enjoy the way the different sections (snowmen, snowflakes, waves of lights) coordinated their dancing. We admired the different trees decorated for the tree competition, and we tried to count how many Santas we could see in all the different displays.

As we started down the road to exit the park, we spotted Santa in his sleigh, with all his reindeer flying directly over the road ahead of us, all lit up. We had a lot of fun being out after dark.

If you go, know that Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays feature a live Santa and wagon rides as well as the displays. Information on hours and special events can be found on the Kiwanis Holiday Lights web site, linked above.

Happy Holidays!

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