By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
They throw the switch for Wonderland in Lights on Thanksgiving night in Community Park.
The lighting display will brighten hearts through New Year’s weekend. A new house is in place for volunteers thanking visitors with candy canes and collecting donations on enhancing the event next year.
“We will have volunteers there starting Friday. Then Santa will make his first appearance on Saturday night,” said Abbey Depoister, of the Effingham Tourism Department. “The house replaced the building that had been used for years by the volunteers.”
Vehicles can enter the Wonderland route at the end of Engbring Street on the west side of Community Park. The lights switch on at 5 p.m. each evening. The display closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and adds an extra hour to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
There will be new displays along the route that dips down below the picnic areas and ball diamonds of the park. Many of the displays have lighted animation featuring reindeer, elves, skaters, giant toys and a slightly-too-wide Santa. Donations at the end of the route help with expenses and adding to the display each year.
At the end of the route on Saturdays, Santa will hand candy and also little toys to younger children in the vehicles.
The route is one lane and allows visitors to take an easy pace to enjoy and even record the different displays, Depoister said. Visitors can also tune into a radio station to learn more about Wonderland in Lights.
The light displays are popular in the area.
“Last year, 6,758 vehicles were counted while volunteers were there,” Depoister said.
The popularity of Wonderland in Lights is evident at Christmastime. Many residents will take their grandchildren or nieces and nephews to see the lights. It was by popular demand that the city extended the days of the displays.
“We will stop staffing at Christmas, but the display will go on through News Year’s weekend. That was by popular demand because people wanted to see the lights going on longer with their families visiting during the holidays,” Depoister said.
Speaking about Christmas Lights
Residents and businesses are also reminded they need to have their lights up by the first week of December for getting nominated for the Holiday Lights and Festive Sites Contest.
Nominations for your residence or business must be submitted by noon on Dec. 5 through the Effingham Convention and Visitors Bureau online or through Facebook at www.VisitEffinghamIL.com or by dropping it off at the Visitor Center. Call 217-342-5310 for more information on the contest.
There are four categories -- Clark Griswold, Classic Christmas, Reason for the Season or Best Business display. First place winners receive $250 and all participants have a chance in a drawing for a $100 gift certificate. The business winner picks a favorite charity for a donation.
Voting will be conducted from Dec. 9-16. The winners will be announced on Dec. 16.