Sunday, June 24, 2018

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Hundreds of volunteers again bring Christmas Village to life

It opens Thanksgiving Day at Chippewa Falls' Irvine Park

  • fls-Lights-10-122612

    Christmas Village in December 2012 at Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls.

    Staff file photo

  • Dick-Hebert

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa Falls parks director Dick Hebert continues to be amazed at how area residents come together to help set up the annual Christmas Village in Irvine Park.

“Our community will not let this go away,” Hebert said. “One way or another, there will always be a Christmas Village. We had approximately 300 volunteers this year, including the inmates from the Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility.”

The village once again features about 100,000 lights and 200 displays — including two new displays this year. One new display is the 12 Days of Christmas created by McDonell High School teacher Eric Wedemeyer and painted by his students. That display is near the Welcome Center.

The other new display features the Hotel Northern, and is created by local artist Jean Arneson, who also has painted the Wagner Street Mural and the large animal exhibit buildings.

“She has been critical to our success with the Christmas Village,” Hebert said.

Hebert said he is upbeat about how much the community looks forward to the annual light show.

“I’m happy this project means so much to everyone over the holidays,” Hebert said.

Mayor Greg Hoffman said it’s a great event to bring the community and their extended families, together.

“People enjoy it and bring in their families,” Hoffman said. “People come home to Chippewa Falls to go to the park. It’s a well-planned-out event.”

Hoffman said everything from the Christmas Village to Wonderland Parade on Dec. 2 creates holiday experiences for the family in the city.

The inmates have volunteered countless hours in the park every year since 2008, usually in teams of eight with one supervisor.

Hebert said setup starts earlier each year to make sure everything is done — this year the first lights went up in the third week of September, during Oktoberfest weekend.

Among the popular displays is the list of all the Chippewa County active military members who won’t be home for the holidays this year. Mary and Bill Brunstad have compiled the list every year since 2000. The Brunstads intentionally don’t list the names alphabetically because they want people to read through the entire list, and not just search for a special name.

The Christmas Village display was created in Irvine Park in 1987.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Run for the Lights 5K run/​walk through the park will be at 4 p.m. Saturday, beginning at the main pavilion, with proceeds going to offset the estimated $3,000 cost of lighting the park.

Donation boxes generally bring in about $3,000, and the sale of buttons and ornaments generate another $1,500 to $2,000 each year, with the revenue used to buy new lights, cords and displays. Hebert said he also sends out donation letters that will generate another $10,000 annually for improvements. He explained that the cords are routinely replaced because they become brittle in the cold weather.

Horse-drawn wagon rides through the park are scheduled for Dec. 5-7, Dec. 12-14 and Dec. 19-21. The rides begin and end at the Chippewa Falls Main Street office parking lot at 514 N. Bridge St. Rides are scheduled 4:30, 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. each of those nine days. Tickets are $6 each and can be purchased at the Gordy’s Market service center. For more information call Chippewa Falls Main Street at 715-723-6661.

With the park ready to go, Hoffman is already lining up volunteers to help tear it down, which will begin immediately Jan. 2. To volunteer contact Parks and Recreation at 715-723-0051.

Contact: 715-723-0303, chris.vetter@ecpc.com


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