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"Lights of the Northwoods" almost ready for tonight's ribbon cuttingSubmitted: 12/14/2017
Story By Natalie Cardona

RHINELANDER - 50,000 twinkling lights will bring holiday cheer Hodag Park in Rhinelander Thursday night.

"Lights of the Northwoods" is a drive-through light show packed with more than 32 individual displays.

Vice President Shawn Will says he's excited and a bit nervous to officially share the display tonight.

Those nerves have nothing to do with the amount of snow we got.

"I was thinking as the snow was flying and I was looking at the lights I'm like, 'This is going to be like one of

those Hallmark movies we watch all the time!' It's really going to be pretty on the lake here with the lights

shining off the snow," says Will.





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RHINELANDER - Kids across the country look forward to getting their picture taken with Santa during the holiday season. Santa usually visits busy places like the mall, but these areas can be noisy and overwhelming for kids with autism. That's why Saint Nick made a special trip to Tom's Drawing Board in Rhinelander Sunday.

"This is a nice, quiet place where kids with autism or other sensory issues can come visit me," said Santa Claus.

The Autism Society of Central Wisconsin hosted a sensory-friendly meet and greet with Santa Claus. Families could register to visit during certain time slots so that there weren't too many people there at once.

"We made sure there's no flashing lights, loud music, people screaming or talking really loud," said Santa. 

Kids stayed entertained with sensory-friendly toys and activities while they waited to take their picture with the big man himself.

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RHINELANDER - Lights of the Northwoods will host its 3rd annual holiday event the next two weekends. President Shawn Will says the event gets bigger every year.

The display first started with 50,000 lights. This year's will feature more than 175,000. Will says it takes a lot of work, but the final product makes it all worth it.

"The best feeling is when people are coming through the lines and kids are poking their heads out the windows and their eyes are just huge," said Will.

This year will feature 19 new light displays.

People tampered with displays in the past, but Will hopes increased surveillance will keep that from happening this year.

"We have had some [vandalism] which is unfortunate, where people come in and cut off the ends of every light strip. It's just sad to see."

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RHINELANDER - Pioneer Park in Rhinelander won't open again until the summer of 2020.

For one day only this winter, the park's train depot museum will welcome guests for free.

At the holiday open house Saturday, people can enjoy refreshments and museum tours.

Model trains will be running throughout the day including a display based on 1950's Rhinelander.

The Rhinelander Railroad Association will also provide rides in a speeder car outside the museum.

Doors will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and donations are welcome.

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