Celebrating ‘20 years of holiday magic’

Kelly Hueckman, Staff Writer

The Celebration of Lights is celebrating 20 years of magic.

Menominee Park has once again illuminated Oshkosh with the return of its annual Celebration of Lights as it also celebrates “20 years of holiday magic.”

The event allows community members to enjoy the holiday magic of over a million glistening lights decorating the park each night until Jan. 1.
Community members remember the event not only for its 1.2 mile-long twinkling light display, but also for visitation hours with Santa in his workshop and now sold-out carriage rides.

Although the Celebration of Lights organization is nonprofit, they annually support other organizations like the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Club and the Oshkosh School District.

This year, Oshkosh Celebration of Lights is asking members to bring in donations of sealed hygiene products to distribute to those in need. For cars that bring in a donation, $1 will be taken off the general admission price of $10.

Admission prices are used to repair broken lights and displays so visitors can enjoy the holiday cheer for years to come.

However, thanks to various local sponsors, the event allows one “Community Night” each week, when admission is free. Upcoming Community Nights are on Dec. 14, 17 and 25.

The community festivities would not be possible without the help of local volunteers, though. Each year, volunteers help set up lights, find sponsors and make sure the event runs smoothly each night.

One long-time volunteer is UW Oshkosh staff member Cindy Schultz, who has donated her time each holiday season since 2006.

Schultz said she works with other volunteers to direct visitors, collect donations and provide a helping hand in Santa’s Workshop.

Schultz’s experience proves that volunteerism not only allows community members to give back, but to also use the time to connect with friends and family.

On her first night volunteering, Schultz recalls ordering a pizza for her and her daughter to the park.

“It was hard to tell them where to deliver the pizza,” Schultz said as she reminisced on one of her favorite Celebration of Lights memories. “So I just told them, ‘The North Pole!”

Now, ordering pizza delivered to “The North Pole” is an annual tradition for her and her fellow volunteers as they work to serve thousands of people each season.

In 2020, over 16,000 vehicles packed with friends and family visited the Oshkosh Celebration of Lights.

Among this year’s visitors, UWO sophomore Hannah Allen experienced the light displays for the first time.

“I loved seeing the tunnel of lights and all of the trees wrapped in different colors,” Allen said of her visit.

Allen, along with the other drivers at the event, also tuned into WRST 90.3 FM to enjoy a perfectly curated Christmas playlist that complimented the animated light shows.

Other notable attractions for visitors to plan into their visit are sculptured light displays, a Celebration of Lights gift shop and 120 lit-up Christmas trees—one of which is 100 feet tall!

The Oshkosh Celebration of Lights is open from 5:30-9:00 p.m. every day until Jan. 1.