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Rhinelander group working with city to put on holiday lights display test run for Dec. 2017Submitted: 07/05/2017
Story By Lane Kimble

Rhinelander group working with city to put on holiday lights display test run for Dec. 2017
RHINELANDER - Many people enjoy driving around neighborhoods at Christmastime to look at light displays.  But what if you could put all of those lights in one central spot?  It's a dream inching toward reality in Rhinelander.

The non-profit Lights of the Northwoods steering committee wants to put a large holiday lights display at Hodag Park.  Vice President Shawn Will laid out his business plan for the Parks Committee on June 26.

The group wants to run a small-scale version this December to show the city and community they're serious about making this an annual event.

"An event like this will actually allow us to get use out of Hodag Park when it's normally dormant and there really isn't much else to do," Will said. "I expect this to be not only the talk of Rhinelander but northern Wisconsin, and I think we'll all be talking about it."

Lights of the Northwoods is currently under the oversight of the Rhinelander Lions Club until it finishes the 501(c)(3) application process, which should wrap up in fall 2018.  Will says the light show would act as a fundraiser for local food pantries. People could bring a non-perishable food item.

The idea is modeled on La Crosse's Rotary Lights show, which has grown to 3.5 million lights over the last two decades. Will says this display wouldn't be nearly as large, at least not initially.

"It's really cool, it's fun, it's part of Christmas, it's a tradition," Will said of holiday light displays. "If we could do that and make Rhinelander a part of that tradition and make Hodag Park that go-to spot to see the lights, that's why I do it."

The group would start by decorating existing trees at Hodag Park and bring in some temporary displays. Eventually, the group would work with area contractors like Gaber Electric to install more lighting infrastructure for the light show and other events at Hodag Park.

Will says the Parks Committee was largely supportive, but the city wants the group to run the idea past Hodag Park neighbors and formalize lighting plans. The group would also become a regular fixture on the committee's agenda for future meetings.

"Keeping the city well informed about what we're doing and what we're planning on doing next and addressing their concerns in a quick manner, we definitely need to be there," Will said.

The group suspects the light show won't cost the city anything, thanks to potential non-profit and volunteer partnerships and grants.

The show is tentatively set for December 14 through 17, pending approval.

For more information about the show or to offer your services, you can email lightsofthenorthwoods@yahoo.com or call 715-966-3341.


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