Lights of the Northwoods
Community event to brighten the holiday season
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
Rhinelander’s Hodag Park is being transformed this weekend into a twinkling wonderland. The Lights of the Northwoods, a nonprofit group formed less than a year ago is hosting a preview event Dec. 14-17, from 5-9 p.m.
“We approached the city with the intent of a doing a 2018 event,” said Lights of the Northwoods organizer Shawn Will. “But then we thought, let’s run a preview event this year to gauge the community’s interest and see what’s possible.”
The group was pleasantly surprised. More than $20,000 has been raised through sponsorships so far, local businesses have provided discounts to purchase lights and displays, dozens of community organizations have stepped forward to help, including local electricians volunteering their time to make sure the lights are lit.
“We received a bulk order of lights from Menards that was delivered on a pallet,” Will said. “And we’ve had a volunteer spooling them so they are ready to go when we begin decorating.”
The idea of lighting up a park during the holidays began more than 20 years ago in La Crosse, with the Rotary Club, Will said, and since then other communities across the state have started their own events. Though the light displays at Hodag Park will be open only four days during this preview, the intent is to grow the event every year.
“Social media following has been great. The only sort of negative thing we’ve seen (on social media) is people asking why it’s not running longer,” he noted. “La Crosse started with 2,600 lights and now they put up more than 3 million and have the park lit for weeks.”
Visitors are encouraged to bring cash or food donations for the local food pantries. There will be a walking path and driving path on the north end of the park to view the lights and near the boat landing will be an activity area consisting of concessions sold by school organizations, a bon fire, caroling on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. with the Northwoods Choraliers, and Santa all four nights.
“I’m pretty excited, and nervous,” Will admitted. “This is a legacy thing that we hope will become a tradition for many, many people.”
Anyone interested in volunteering to set up decorations or help out during the event can visit LightsoftheNorthwoods.com or call 715-966-0384.