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The Lights of Christmas — A Winter Wonderland

Keith Yarter, Sr., The Lights of Christmas Director

It was interesting how many times during December I heard the songs, White Christmas and Winter Wonderland on the radio. It seemed that those two songs were the only ones being played throughout the season. I know that is not true, but when you experience a season like The Lights of Christmas of 2008, you begin to wonder.

Yes, it was a challenging season with 11 days of snow, ice and cold temperatures. It reminded me of a snow machine that was overcompensating, trying to please everyone. Yet, it was beautiful to see the grounds covered in white splendor with the lights showing through the snow.

The weather kept many of our guests from coming. The roads and highways were too rough to make the journey, so only 26,000 people came to enjoy The Lights this year, nearly half during our first two weekends of record breaking attendance and the rest to delight in the snow.

We did close one night due to a major snow storm that hit the Stanwood area. Another night was cut short because a power transformer blew up near the camp shutting off the electricity. Our staff and volunteers responded so well in getting our guests to their vehicles safely and assisted the few who stayed to enjoy the illumination of the snow and the emergency Christmas lights that remained on. We learned how to modify our event when entertainment was not available and faced other challenges as they made their appearance.

Our tractors were kept busy plowing roads and an army of people shoveled walkways so the guests could safely move around the event. The snow was piled in many locations where children soon made the heaps of cool fun into playgrounds – places for sliding, making a snow chair, and playing King of the Mountain! You could hear laughter and squeals from every mound. Even some adults got into the spirit. I wonder if the hot chocolate sales increased?

The Lights of Christmas débuted our new train (see the winter issue of The Sounder) with its whistle, chug sounds, fully detailed. Families rushed to get onboard and take a trip on the new Polar Express II. In the Frontier zone, there were animated fish going up the falls and Christmas tree lights dancing to the motion of computer technology near the Santa’s Outpost Store. We continued to go “green” by totally decorating the Joyland Courtyard Tree in LED lights. We even had the 12 Days of Christmas display where I heard many of our guests singing as they pointed to each of the panels.

But in spite of the weather and smaller crowds, we remained faithful to the vision of the founding leaders in bringing an event that declares the message of Christmas in a lavish style. The light hangers, volunteers and staff made it happen. It is their skills, patience and time that produced the grand look that blessed many who came (even with all the snow).

The ministry of The Lights has always been to give an opportunity for people to come and take a breather from the frantic life that goes on the rest of the year. The Prayer Chapel gave us the insights of what our guests needed. Here are some examples from The Lights of Christmas Prayer Request Booklet:

“I’m 22 years old this year. I just ask for the strength to make it to 23. I love the Lord with all my heart and I know he’s here with me through all life’s struggles. Thanks again until next year.”

“For peace of mind and heart; for the ability to go forward after a year of too much loss.”

Many more spoke about health, family, spiritual, economic and employment issues, but I want to conclude with this prayer request from a young man who has some sport ambitions with a spiritual heart:

“For me to be a better goalie! And for me to be a better outfielder! And for me to be a better basketball player and for me to have a good Christmas! For everybody to remember the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus being born.”

The Lights of Christmas extends our deep appreciation to the Staff, friends, volunteers and, most of all, to our guests who made this season possible. It is because of all of you that The Lights of Christmas is a Northwest tradition.
See you next year.

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