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Making Spirits Bright Annual Christmas Lights Display


Making Spirits Bright Annual Christmas Lights Display

The holidays are just around the corner; Thanksgiving is a week away, and so is the Black Friday shopping, the holiday decorating, the baking, and Christmas music. Hopefully the snow too, if you are dreaming of a White Christmas. If you read my last blog, you may recall that I shared how it is a tradition in my family to put up and decorate the Christmas tree the weekend of Thanksgiving. This is a favorite tradition because it builds the same excitement it held when I was a kid. The Christmas special playing in the background, the cookies and sweets my mom puts out for us to share, hot chocolate that ends up sitting on the coffee table getting cold because you are so preoccupied with untangling the Christmas lights and hanging up your ornaments. The lights are my favorite part of this all. There is something so comforting about seeing lights on people’s porches, lining their houses, glowing from the Christmas tree in the window during these dark and long months. The lights are an aspect of Christmas I look forward to, and I know I am not alone in this. So, although Black Friday is one week from today, so is the topic of this week’s blog: Sheboygan’s annual Making Spirits Bright drive-through holiday lights show opening.

Making Spirits Bright: The Need-To-Know

In 2012, the Sheboygan County Rotary Club created a 53,000 lights show as means to bring the community together with a holiday themed event that could support the local food bank and lend a helping hand to those who need assistance. Located at the Sheboygan Evergreen Park and Jaycee Quarry Park, the family-friendly idea morphed into a huge lights display that families could drive through and enjoy; the only cost being donations of pantry items for the food bank. Since 2012, the volunteer-run event has grown in size, and success. In only its second year of the event, the number of lights in the show had nearly doubled to 100,00. By 2014, only the third Making Spirits Bright event, a nine-member board of directors was brought on because of the popularity of the event. Today, the light show is a 20 to 30 minute drive through with hundreds of thousands of lights on display, and additionally there is an annual run/walk through the lights park that takes place once a year at the beginning of the season. The price of admission remains to be donations only, either food pantry items, hygiene products, or cash donations for the pantry. Thousands of volunteers come together each season to help bring this magical Christmas light show tradition to life. Behind the scenes, Rotary Club members and engineer volunteers work year round on adding to the show, the light displays, and the operations. About 50 volunteers work year-round on preparing Making Spirits Bright for the community to return to visit and make a difference with their donations each year.

2023’s Making Spirits Bright

This year, Making Spirits Bright was recognized as the winner of the Community Choice Awards Best Event in Sheboygan County. And now that it’s nearly time for the opening night of the season, the lights, concessions, Santa, wreath raffle, and entertainment are back from November 24th to December 31st. There are a couple of new aspects of the event this year, the first being that you can now make donations via Venmo or PayPal. The newest lights display addition is the Mega Star, which is inspired by the movie Christmas Chronicles 2. After seeing the lights display myself, I was astonished to learn that they add hundreds to thousands of new lights and specific displays each year, so although the park is already filled to quite an impressive amount, it continues to grow each year. There are two ways you can enjoy the lights show; either by driving through in the comfort of your own vehicle, or taking a very festive trolley-ride for $2 a person. After speaking with Gerry, one of the park Captains at Making Spirits Bright, I learned that there is an advantage to riding in your own vehicle for the most optimal viewing experience. However, if you have a large party wanting to attend the lights, or you want to complete the experience with a quaint old-fashioned trolley ride, the trolley’s hall is decked in Christmas garland, bells, and ornaments. No matter which drive through option you choose, you are guaranteed to see the lights, hear the corresponding Christmas music that is synched up to the lights show, and enjoy holly jolly Christmas ride!

Additional Merry Celebrations at Making Spirits Bright

Besides enjoying the light show, there are more ways to get festive at Making Spirits Bright. On Saturday and Friday evenings every week starting November 24th, 2023 through Christmas Eve, the Jaycee Quarry Park holds visits with Santa for the little ones (so make sure you come prepared with your wish requests!) entertainment such as choir singers, jazz groups, orchestra groups, and even acapella singers. The Quarry building is also where guests should head if they want to ride the trolleys. Trolleys are every Friday and Saturday night from November 24th-December 23rd as well and depart at intervals. The first trolley departs at 5:15, then 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, and the last one at 8:15 PM. Children under 1 can ride free, and it’s a small fee of only $2 for everyone else to board this holiday trolley ride.

The Lights Display

The lights show itself is quite impressive with a lights that everyone will enjoy! You will recognize Christmas classic characters ranging from the Peanuts to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elf to Santa and his workshop, Family favorites like the Grinch and Deck The Halls. Although some of the lights are classic whites, reds, greens, and blues, all the colors of the rainbow are spread across the park and up the trees. I genuinely felt like I was journeying through an enchanted forest. Both the young, and the young at heart will be able to feel the magic as they ride through the winding wooded road.

The Brightest Spirit

I loved my experience visiting Making Spirits Bright, not only were there plenty of special festive fun to partake in, but it is such a wonderful cause to contribute to. It is impressive, to say the least, that this entire event is run and operated by volunteers and the Rotary Club, and how much of an impact this event has had, and continues to have, in the Sheboygan community. It seems that each year, Making Spirits Bright only grows- by number of lights, number of attendees, and amount of donations made. I can’t wait to go back this December and bring my loved ones with me to share the magic and help contribute to this immensely thoughtful group. Although this event thrives during the night, there is nothing dark about the mission of Making Spirits Bright.


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