RHINELANDER - Two days after the Lights of the Northwoods display wrapped up its opening weekend, Vice President Shawn Will is still struggling for words.
"I don't even know the words to describe how it felt when we opened up the gates and we had lines of people wanting to see what we've been working on for such a long time," said Will.
After more than a year of planning, volunteers spent days putting up 50,000 lights on trees and 32 ground displays.
About 12,800 people came out to see Rhinelander's first light display at Hodag Park.
"It was just humbling," said Will.
The event exceeded just about everyone's expectations.
"Especially for a first year, but just in general anyway, I thought it was amazing," said Rhinelander alderman Alex Young.
It was so successful that Rhinelander's Parks Committee voted to keep a partial display up through January 1.
"For the little bit of electricity cost that we might have in keeping it running for the rest of the year, let's do it," said Young.
But the city wasn't the only one impressed by the event's first year.
Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Executive Director Guy Hansen couldn't believe the amount of food donations brought in by Lights of the Northwoods.
"They collected over 4,100 pounds which is a huge donation. Way more than I expected," said Hansen.
It's a huge donation that Hanson says is definitely needed this time of year.
"We had 60 some households go through last evening when we were open and we distributed 4,400 pounds," said Hansen.
As more donations come in, volunteers at the food pantry are busy putting away thousands of pounds of food.
Across town, volunteers are busy putting away thousands of strands of lights at Hodag Park.
Everyone is working with the hopes that next will be even better.
"From what I can see, everybody's in support of continuing this and making this bigger and better every year," said Young.
The tree lights between the road and the lake will stay up, all the other displays will come down.
The lights will be on every night from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
There will be no one out here to collect donations, but Will is still encouraging people to drop off donations at the food pantry.
The pantry is located at 627 Coon Street in Rhinelander. Donations can be dropped off before noon. You can call the food pantry for more information, 715-369-723.