Christmas Village opens Thanksgiving Day

2013-11-25T11:00:00Z Christmas Village opens Thanksgiving DayCALEB BROWN Chippewa Herald
November 25, 2013 11:00 am  • 

If the fresh-fallen snow of this past week doesn't bring the spirit of Christmas to Chippewa Falls, maybe the 26th annual Christmas Village will.

Irvine Park's Christmas Village will officially open on the evening of Thanksgiving Day. At 5 p.m. is when the lights -- all 60,000 of them -- are turned on for the first time.

"You'll be blown away by the massive light display," said Mary Brunstad, a Christmas Village organizer.

Lights are strung on trees, picnic shelters and the bridge, not to mention the spotlights that illuminate the other decorations.

But in the meantime, there is still some work to do.

Parks department employees, volunteer groups and the general public have been out setting up the village every day.

"Once we get into crunch time, there's no way around it," Joe Smith of the Parks Department said last Thursday as he installed spotlights at Irvine Park. "We've got one week."

Preparations began in the early part of October, and Kevin Sweeney, Irvine Park foreman, explained that as always some of the work has to wait until the opener closes in. 

"It's going smooth," he said.

Sweeney said they received a lot of help from the public on Saturday, Nov. 16. Dick Hebert, Chippewa Falls parks director said, noted that Christmas Village couldn't happen without this kind of support from the public.

"The community steps forward to get this going," Hebert said.

While the incredible amount of lights is the first thing most people notice about Christmas Village, an equally important component is the displays that line the road leading into the park.

“The next thing is all the displays taking you back in time to the Victorian era," Brunstad said.

About 180 wooden structures fill the park, all painted to depict that period of history. One painting features the William Irvine home which still stands on the West Hill.

"We try to do a little something new every year," Sweeney said.

While the lights might be dazzling at night, don't forget that the Village is open all day too.

 Admission is free but donations are not only accepted but encouraged. Contributions help pay for the cost of 60,000 lights.

Fun for everyone 

This year will feature the second annual 5K Run For The Lights. This 3.1-mile race costs $20 per person or $50 per family maximum. The race will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, and same-day registration begins at 2:45 p.m. All of the money raised goes to help future Christmas Villages.

Most of the time, Christmas Village is open to both vehicle and foot traffic, but there are two days where the park is closed to all but walkers for a few hours. Brunstad said these are really good opportunities to check the village out.

"It really puts you into the moment," she said. "You become one of the people in the displays. When you are captured in the car you can’t do that."

The first walking-only time happens at the opening on Thanksgiving Day. The park restricts access to walkers from when it opens at 5 p.m. to 6:30.
The other walk-only event happens on Saturday, Dec. 14. That's when Chippewa Valley Newspapers sponsors its 21st annual Walk through the Park. From 5 to 6:30 p.m. employees of the Chippewa Herald and its other publications provide hot chocolate and cookies for those who come. 

Children will also get a chance to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, who are always on hand passing out candy canes to children who have been good this year.

“This is what Christmas and family time is all about,” Brunstad said.

Copyright 2015 Chippewa Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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