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Festival of Lights...

Festival of Lights 2016
C-T Photos Catherine Stortz Ripley and Jaime Saucedo

11/22/16 C-T - Chillicothe's uniquely spectacular holiday spirit was on display this weekend, kicking off the year's events. The Festival of Lights is weeks in the making, needing extended time to set up Simpson Park's entire display. But it is well worth it for the families of Chillicothe as they show up in crowds, children brimming with anticipation, all the way through the 'count down.' (C-T Photo at left Catherine Stortz Ripley)

According to committee member, Janet Barnhart, "this year we had a good crowd, there were no gusting winds that make for bitter cold." Warm apple cider and coffee were served for free while children asked Santa for their Christmas wishes. Santa made sure to hear them all as he stayed for the entire event. Dozens of people waited in the 33 degree temperature for their turn on the sleigh ride that went on until every last person was able to get a ride. An estimated 500 people were on hand for the lighting and the Festival of Lights will remain on display through to the first of the new year.

This year's Festival of Lights in Simpson park features two new lighted displays and an expansion of an existing display. The Festival of Lights Committee purchased the airplane display with funds from the James Beemer memorial. The Santa display was purchased by the Festival of Lights committee with funds from the Scott Stephens memorial. The newly-enlarged Nativity and the four additional figurines were made possible with funds from the Keith Ware memorial.

CAPTION: Saturday's Festival of Lights was launched by Mayor Chuck Haney, this year's Christmas Spirit Student Tara Webb, Santa Claus and a couple of his helpers.

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C-T PHOTOS / JAIME SAUCEDOThe displays have been set in place, and the lights will come on for the season during the Opening Night Celebration at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, November 19, 2016. The tradition of the Festival of Lights began in 2005 and continues today because of the support and generosity of Chillicothe. Several businesses donate everything from electrical supplies and zip ties to teams of employees who come out and decorate designated areas. Donations from local foundations, businesses, memorials and individuals enable the committee to maintain and enhance the park each year.

Along with new bows, the festival will have two new displays this year. A new, animated Santa display has been placed on top of the bathroom building near the playground. Visitors to the park will also discover Santa flying an airplane with a Merry Christmas banner attached. Most of the favorite displays will be back this year. A crew of volunteers has spent many hours this summer repairing and replacing burned out lights so that every display will appear shiny and new on opening night. A few displays must be retired each year and will be replaced as funds are available. Power issues at specific locations in the park are attended to so that outages will be at a minimum. Donations are always welcome and are put to good use. A donation box has been set up at the park and donations may be placed in the box or mailed to Festival of Lights, PO Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601. Festival of Lights committee members are Barb Burton, Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Kathy Gilliland, and Mary Lou Wilhoit.

Parks and recreation department workers help give volunteers a 'lift' as they string lights
on a tree near the main entrance of Simpson Park in preparation of the Festival of Lights.
Opening night will be Saturday, November 19, 2016. The lighting display is fully funded through donations.


C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Festival of Lights 2015

Annual Ceremony Lights up Simpson Park
By BRITTANY TUTT
November 23, 2015

CAPTION: Mayor Chuck Haney and special guests, Gavin and Mea Campbell, were joined by Santa and his elves for the countdown at the Festival of Lights ceremony Saturday night.


C-T Photo / Brittany Tutt

The Festival of Lights lighting ceremony in Simpson Park took place Saturday evening. Festival of Lights has been a growing Chillicothe tradition since 2005. This was the first year the Festival of Lights and Jenkins Townhouse ceremonies were combined. Mayor Chuck Haney welcomed everyone to the event and talked a little bit about that. "It was a very emotional time for Jason Bone (of the Chillicothe Rotary Club) and I. The Chillicothe Rotary Club and the city went to visit with Carol (Jenkins) about moving the lighting ceremony... to Simpson Park to combine them into one ceremony. That's what we've done tonight. And what happens after tonight for next year, we'll play it day by day," Mayor Haney said. Haney talked about how volunteers have been hard at work since early October and how successful Festival of Lights has become. "A lot of new things have been added each and every year to make this the talk of not only Chillicothe but the entire area of northwest Missouri... It's unbelievable how many people drive to Chillicothe to drive or walk through our park to see the Festival of Lights and all the decorations. It takes a lot of people to do it." Mayor Haney then introduced Festival of Lights coordinator Barb Burton. "We're delighted to see all of you tonight. This is all of our's celebration and don't we have a wonderful, beautiful Simpson Park," Burton asked the large crowd who attended the ceremony. Burton then thanked all who help make Festival of Lights possible year after year. "I want to first thank the city of Chillicothe who actually allows us to come out and do this work out here and make our park beautiful. They are all for it and 100 percent behind it and so we really appreciate their support." "We have a small committee but we have a lot of volunteers that help us do this every year," Burton continued. "We are so, so appreciative of them to help us every year and to get out there. And this is not an exclusive group. Every one of you is invited to help us and join us. We meet new people every year that come out and help and we need your help so much." Burton then pointed out the Festival of Lights donation box set up in the park, which helps tremendously as well. "When you drop some money in there that just helps us fix lights or buy more lights or buy new displays like we have every year," Burton said. Festival of Lights committee members were introduced: Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Mary Lou Wilhoit and Cathy Gilliland. Burton also thanked the Chillicothe Parks Department. "One of the reasons our park looks so beautiful year-round is because of our park staff," Burton said. She also thanked CMU and the Chillicothe Correctional Center for allowing offenders to help provide labor. "Those ladies are amazing help. They help us every year," Burton said. Burton also thanked business sponsors. A list of them can be found on a banner hung up on the tennis court fence in Simpson Park. 

Burton then pointed out the new displays which were a new United States flag donated by the Grand River Technical School located on the north side of the park, and twinkling snow flakes located on the west side of the park. "Enjoy this tonight. We are so thankful and happy and blessed to have this park and to have the Central School Stingers with us tonight. It's just a great community occasion," Burton said. "We love the lights, we love our park and we just want to see it continue and that's why we do what we do," Burton concluded.

Jason Bone recognized the honorary students on behalf of the Rotary Club, which were brother and sister, Gavin and Mea Campbell. "These two really exemplify Christmas at its best," Bone said of the students. He then read information about the students sent to him from their teachers. Santa and his elves joined the Campbells and Mayor Haney on the stage to countdown the lighting from ten. When the countdown reached one, not only did the park light up but all the childrens' face lit up as well. Many of the people stayed and walked around to all the displays, enjoyed horse carriage rides through the park, and visited Santa.

Festival of Lights Opens Saturday
November 17, 2015

The park has been full of activity as decorations go up for Festival of Lights in Simpson Park. Wreaths appear on light posts, then garland on bridges, followed by lights on trees, and this week the displays have been set in their places. The lights will come on for the season during the opening night celebration at 5 p.m. this Saturday, November 21. The tradition of the Festival of Lights began in 2005 and continues today because of the volunteer efforts of many in our community, according to Festival of Lights Coordinator Barb Burton. "From electrical supplies to zip ties, local businesses provide items and often labor to support this project," she said. Welding students at the Grand River Technical School donated their labor to build a U.S. Flag. Other volunteers wired the flag with lights. Money is raised each year to purchase the things that cannot be donated, including lights and cords and decorations. "We have noticed that the trees have grown substantially since last year which means more lights are needed to decorate them adequately," Burton said. The committee also includes Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Kathy Gilliland and Mary Lou Wilhoit. In addition to the new flag, a group of shimmery snowflakes have been added to bring beauty to the park. Most of the favorite displays will be back this year. A crew of volunteers have spent many hours this summer repairing and replacing burned out lights so that every display will appear shiny and new on opening night. A few displays must be retired each year and will be replaced as funds are available, Burton said. Power issues at specific locations in the park are attended to so that outages will be at a minimum. Many people make this project work year after year including our Chillicothe Parks and Recreation staff, directed by Josh Norris and Chillicothe Municipal Utilities staff, directed by Matt Hopper. Offender crews work steadily throughout the season. Several areas of the park are decorated by teams of employees from local businesses and GRTS. A tub with lights and a printout of the decorating plan for that area is prepared for each team. They schedule a time to work. Festival of Lights also provides a support person. The decorating is accomplished in about an hour. The rest is decorated by committee members and others, some are the same for several years, and every year there are new faces. "All are welcome and fit right in," Burton said. "We hope we are almost finished decorating for 2015, but look forward to working with everyone in January to take it down." Burton notes that while the lights and decorations are beautiful, the bills aren't all paid. The Festival of Lights Committee invites those who enjoy the lights to consider making a donation in the DONATION BOX at the park, or mail it to Festival of Lights, PO Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601.

Festival of Lights Ceremony November 21
November 10, 2015

The longtime Jenkins Lighting Ceremony at the Jenkins Christmas Village will not take place in 2015, but some elements of the ceremony have been transferred to the Festival of Lights opening night celebration event in Simpson Park. The festival ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 21. After reviewing the condition of lights and decorations that have become unusable or worn over the years, a decision was reached with the Rotary Club of Chillicothe and Carol Jenkins, the surviving daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Jess Jenkins. The Chillicothe Rotary Club had been involved in the Jenkins Lighting ceremony and program the past three years. Over many years and in preparation of the annual ceremony, the women of the Jenkins home have been faithful in hanging lights, setting up holiday displays, and rehabbing the worn items to the best they could with limited funding and available resources, according to Chuck Haney, a long-time announcer of the Jenkins Townhouse Christmas Village lighting. Honoring the Jenkins family and their impact on the women at the home through many decades has been an important part of Chillicothe, Haney said. Carol Jenkins will attend the Festival of Lights ceremony in Simpson Park, and she and her friends will be getting a personal escort to Simpson Park where Carol will be introduced and recognized. The Festival of Lights Committee has agreed not only to include Carol in the program but also the Central School Stingers directed by Dan Venner. The Stingers, a choral group of more than 100 students, have been singing at the Jenkins ceremony for the past several years and will continue to do so at the Festival Lights program. The starting time for the festival of lights is at an earlier time this year to accommodate the additional elements in the program.

New American Flag Planned for Festival of Lights
May 12, 2015

It's time to retire the Festival of Light's 12-year-old U.S. flag display. A new, improved, and larger flag has been on the committee's wish list for a long time. "The time is right," says committee chairman Barb Burton. The committee members have found a display they like, and Lee Caughron, welding instructor at GRTS, has agreed to have his students build it. "We believe that a new flag display is an important addition to the Festival of Lights," she said. The new display will be 12 feet by 8 feet in size and will be illuminated with more than 1,000 LED bulbs. Although the committee is saving a substantial amount of money by having the students build the frame, donations are still needed to purchase the materials used by the welding class along with the custom wiring and the LED bulbs that will be added by others. "The individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations of Chillicothe have always been very generous with their continued financial support for the Festival of Lights, and we hope to make the new flag display a reality for 2015," Burton said. "In order to take advantage of the reduced, off-season pricing on the items needed, it's important that we raise the money for the flag long before we actually begin our work in the park. We would like to thank the community for their support, which makes the Festival of Lights possible." Donations may be mailed to Festival of Lights, PO Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601.

Festival of Lights Fundraising Begins
April 15, 2015

Spring has sprung, and the Festival of Lights Committee is already planning for the winter holidays. It's time to place orders for new lights and decorations for Festival of Lights 2015; and residents of Chillicothe are receiving an extra envelope inside their April Chillicothe Municipal Utilities (CMU) bill to mail a donation for Festival of Lights. Decorating doesn't begin until October, but orders for lights must be placed early to get products at the best prices, said festival organizer Barb Burton. Most companies require 50 percent down when the order is placed. Some items, including the snowfall tubes that were so popular last year, must be ordered within the next few weeks. Each year, the Festival of Lights Committee prepares a budget for new decorations and for the replacement and repair of existing decorations before the funds are raised. "Payments for decorations have always been made in full and on time thanks to the generosity of the residents of Chillicothe and the surrounding area," Burton said. Donors may use the envelope provided in the April CMU bill to send cash or check for the 2015 Festival of Lights. City or county residents who do not receive the CMU bill are also encouraged to donate. Checks should be made payable to Festival of Lights and mailed to P.O. Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601. Festival of Lights Committee members are Barb Burton, Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Mary Lou Wilhoit, and Kathy Gilliland, treasurer. Contact fol@chillicothecity.org for information.

Festival of Lights 2014

Simpson Park Aglow with Holiday Cheer
By CATHERINE STORTZ RIPLEY
November 26, 2014

With the flip of a switch, Chillicothe's Simpson Park became aglow during the annual Festival of Lights ceremony Saturday evening. A large crowd had gathered at the center of the park and enjoyed hot chocolate and cider and listening to a few acknowledgements until the jingle of Santa's horse-drawn sleigh arrived. Upon his arrival, Santa, who was escorted by two elves, addressed the crowd and soon made his way through a colorfully-lighted bridge tunnel and to a nearby shelter house decorated in such a way to provide a Christmas atmosphere. There, he greeted a long line of youngsters eager to share their Christmas wishes. Meanwhile, a long line of people gathered to wait their turn to take a sleigh ride through the lighted park. Prior to Santa's arrival, Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney addressed the crowd and Councilman-at-Large David Moore welcomed the guests stating that the City Council appreciates all the work that goes into the event. "Nobody has any idea, unless you come to the park everyday and watch what goes on, what it takes to make everything happen here," Haney said. "Barb Burton, we appreciate you and your crew very much." Burton then offered a few comments and, in turn, introduced members of the Festival of Lights Committee: Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Mary Lou Wilhoit, Kathy Gilliland. She also noted the cooperation of the city, parks crews, utilities personnel, volunteers, businesses and others who provided their time to decorate the park. Students from the high school and GRTS also help each year, and this year, the art class repainted the nativity figures. The Festival of Lights began in 2005 and has grown since. All of the lights and displays are purchased with funds that have been donated by individuals, businesses and local foundations. Burton stated how important the donations and volunteers are to the success of the Festival of Lights. "It is through your donations that make it possible," she said. Donations may be dropped in a donation box at the park or mailed to Festival of Lights, P.O. Box 1032, in Chillicothe. All funds received will be used for lights and displays. The hot cider and hot chocolate was provided by Hy-Vee. The sleigh rides were sponsored by BTC Bank and Chillicothe State Bank. There are new displays this year, including a new animated penguin and igloo display and some different lighting effects.


Photo by Claire Ripley
Hundreds of people attended the opening of Chillicothe's Festival of Lights Saturday evening.
The event included horse-drawn sleigh rides throughout the 35-acre Simpson Park.

Photos from the opening night celebration, November 22, 2014... enjoy the lights through January 4, 2015. A donation box is available in the park.

Preparations for the 2014 Event...

Work began at Simpson Park the first week of October, 2014, in preparation for the Festival's opening night. The opening night celebration will be Saturday, November 22, 2014, at 5:30 p.m. - the evening of the annual holiday parade.

The park will be closed for a few hours that night so people can walk around and enjoy all the lights and decorations. There will be free hot chocolate and apple cider served. Horse-drawn sleigh rides will be available for $1.

There will be a short program and then a countdown so the lights all come on at one time. The community can look forward to the decorated rocket slide, ice skaters display, twinkle tree, spruce tree (pictured), nativity scene, holly arch and decorated front and back park entrances. A few new items include an animated penguin display and some new lighting effects.

CAPTION: Volunteers help decorate a favorite among the park's decorations - the spruce tree. CT Photo Beth Cox

Festival of Lights 2013

Sights and Sounds of Christmas Fill Simpson Park
By Calli Price CT - Nov. 26, 2013

CAPTION: Horse-drawn sleigh rides were given to more than 100 people throughout Simpson Park Saturday evening. The sleigh rides were provided by Chillicothe State Bank and BTC Bank.


C-T Photos / Calli Price

Nearly 150 children visited with Santa. Several bridges throughout Simpson Park
are covered with festive lights and decorations.

Several hundred people crowded Simpson Park despite frigid temperatures for the 2013 Festival of Lights Celebration and Lighting Ceremony Saturday evening. Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney welcomed the crowd, followed by City Administrator Ike Holland. They both thanked the volunteers and parties involved in the event for their hard work.

Barb Burton recognized the Festival of Lights Committee, including Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Mary Lou Wilhoit, Kathy Gilliland and Jim Hinrichs. Burton also thanked the Parks Department for their hard work in preparing for the event, and noted that without the generosity of the community, this event would not be possible.

Santa, along with Haney, counted down to the lighting. Following the lighting, horse-drawn sleigh rides were given through the park, as well as tractor-drawn wagon rides. Children formed a long line to visit Santa, and Christmas music was provided by Tom Tingerthal. Several space heaters were donated and loaned for the event to help patrons warm up, and apple cider and hot chocolate were provided by Piggly-Wiggly for the event as well.

The Festival of Lights began in 2005 by Audrey and Steve Svec. According to Barb Burton, the idea came to them after seeing a lighting display in another town. "They thought the lights and decorations would be beautiful in Simpson Park," Burton said. The couple began collecting donations from the community to purchase lights and decorations, and worked with a group of volunteers to decorate the park in the initial years of the project. After the Svecs moved from Chillicothe in 2009, the current Festival of Lights Committee formed and they have been in charge since. Through the years, the event has grown to include more lights and decorations throughout the park. Burton said that the key to decorating is the availability and efficient use of electricity. "The Festival of Lights Committee consults with the Chillicothe Parks Department and Chillicothe Municipal Utilities to utilize power effectively," Burton explained. The lights are connected to timers that are set to turn on just before dark each evening. This year, the committee is working to use more decorations and light strands using LED light bulbs, due to the cost effectiveness of them. Roughly, a quarter of the current decorations were changed to LED bulbs this year, and the process will continue through upcoming years.

The number of volunteers has also grown, Burton said. Volunteers include both individuals and businesses who decorate the park, donate money, donate decorations and maintain or repair decorations in the inventory. "This event completely relies on donations of people and memorial donations to make it happen," Burton said. "We could not do it without volunteers."

Opening Night Celebration Event - 5:30 p.m. Saturday, November 23, 2013.
The lights will be on every night at dark through Wednesday, January 1, 2014.
Please send donations to Festival of Lights, P.O. Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601.
To volunteer, call Barb Burton 660-973-1273 or email her.


C-T Photo / Austin Buckner 11/15/13
A crew of workers from Chillicothe Municipal Utilities worked to erect the new archway
at the Washington Street entrance to Simpson Park. The decorations are part of this year's Festival of Lights. Coordinator Barb Burton said the new archway is made possible with donations from businesses and individuals within the Chillicothe community, as well as a memorial contribution from the family of Joan Stephens.

CT Photos

Festival of Lights Archway to Undergo Facelift
The Festival of Lights archway, located near the south entrance to Simpson Park, will undergo a facelift and remain in the park

July 2, 2013

CAPTION: This design, created by 2013 CHS graduate Caela Ashford, was chosen by a group of representatives from the Chillicothe City Council, Parks and Recreation Board and the Festival of Lights Committee. The installation of the new design elements is scheduled for 2014 at an estimated cost of $2,000.

The Festival of Lights archway, located near the south entrance to Simpson Park, will undergo a facelift and remain in the park year-round, due to a 5-0 decision by the Chillicothe City Council on June 24. The new design was created by Caela Ashford, a 2013 graduate of Chillicothe High School. Ashford submitted her design along with many others to the Festival of Lights Committee and was selected by a group formed by Mayor Chuck Haney. The group included representatives of the Chillicothe City Council, Park Board and Festival of Lights Committee. "We are happy to have the support of the Park Board and the City Council to allow the arch to remain in Simpson Park throughout the year," said Barb Burton, a member of the Festival of Lights Committee. "We commend Caela for her design and believe that it will enhance the south entrance to the park."

According to Burton, the new design will be constructed on panels of Sheet metal and will be powder coated and E coated for durability and low maintenance. The construction will be done by students at Grand River Technical School under the direction of Lee Caughron, welding instructor, who directed the construction of the original arch. The design incorporates the elements of the new City of Chillicothe logo which will be cut into panels that will be visible on both sides of the arch. The new panels will remain on the arch year round and the lighted holly and berry panels will be placed directly over them during the holiday season.

The construction of the new design has been estimated to cost $2,000, which will be included in the annual fundraising efforts of the Festival of Lights. Plans are for the new design to be completed and installed in 2014.

This year's Festival of Lights, a drive-through display of holiday lights and decorations, will open for the season on November 23 in Simpson Park.

UPDATE 10/07/14: This past April, 2014, Caela drew her design on the metal being used for the arch, and welding students at Grand River Technical School cut the design out. The arch was completed early this month.


C-T photo / Brittany Tutt

Festival of Lights: Simpson Park Aglow with Holiday Cheer
11/21/12 CT

CAPTION: The Festival of Lights opened Saturday evening in Simpson Park with a large crowd in attendance. Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney served as the master of ceremonies. Santa was greeted with cheers from the audience upon his arrival. Emma Burk helped Santa with the countdown to the lighting. Santa then spent the rest of the evening visiting with children and hearing their Christmas wishes, while a horse-drawn sleigh kept busy carrying individuals throughout the park to view the lighting display.


CT Photo

Hundreds of people were on hand for the 2012 Festival of Lights Celebration and Lighting Ceremony Saturday evening (Nov. 17) at Chillicothe's Simpson Park. Mayor Chuck Haney welcomed the crowd, followed by City Administrator Ike Holland, who thanked everyone for their support, including the Chillicothe Parks Department, under the direction of Josh Norris.

Barb Burton introduced the Festival of Lights Committee, including Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Kathy Gilliland, Mary Lou Wilhoit, and Jim Hinrichs, and expressed her thanks for the support of the community and the help of volunteers.

Emma Burk helped Santa with the countdown to the lighting.

CT Photos

Following the lighting, long lines formed to visit Santa and to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the park. Hot chocolate and apple cider were provided, courtesy of Piggly Wiggly. Christmas music was provided by MC Entertainment.

"The whole thing is, this is affordable for families," said Burton. "Donations are appreciated and may be left in the donation box in the park. It does take a lot to do this every year."

The lights will be on each night through January 1st.

2012 Festival of Lights

Decorating for the 2012 Festival of Lights commenced last week. Shown here, the beginning of light hanging from the trees within Chillicothe's Simpson Park took place on Wednesday afternoon. The Festival of Lights will begin with a lighting ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 5:30 p.m., in the park.


10 25 12 C-T Photo

Volunteers Begin Preparations for Festival of Lights
10 19 12

It's going to look a lot like Christmas soon in Simpson Park as the first decorations go up in preparation for the 2012 Festival of Lights. Volunteers were gathering this week to unpack wreaths, garland, and the thousands of lights that will make their way onto trees and bushes throughout the park. "We welcome anyone who would like to join us", says Barb Burton, coordinator, "this is not an exclusive group. We have fun working together in our beautiful park and enjoy being part of this great community event."

The Chillicothe Parks Department employees, under the direction of Josh Norris, and Chillicothe Municipal Utilities, under the direction of Matt Hopper, work together with Festival of Lights volunteers to decorate the park each year. "The Festival of Lights Committee has been planning since January for the upcoming Christmas season and is excited to announce additions to the park for 2012," said Burton.

New this year, will the lighting of one of Simpson Park's favorite attractions, the Rocket Slide, the addition of an animated snowball fight between three playful snowmen, some exuberant carolers, and deer grazing under shooting stars on Armory Hill. Grand River Tech students under the direction of Lee Caughron, welding instructor, have built animated snowmen and trumpeting angels. Jim Hinrichs and crew are making repairs and replacing lights in existing displays in preparation for the Opening Night Lighting Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 5:30 p.m. This special event will include horse-drawn sleigh rides and free hot chocolate and cider. Santa is scheduled to make a special appearance.

Funds for new displays and supplies needed to refurbish existing displays and lights come from the donations of individuals, businesses and local foundations. Donations are appreciated and can be mailed to Festival of Lights, P.O. Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601. The Festival of Lights is designated as a 501(c)(3) so donations are tax deductible.

The Festival of Lights Committee includes Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Mary Lou Wilhoit, Kathy Gilliland, Jim Hinrichs and Barb Burton. Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Festival of Lights should contact Barb at 660-646-2813 or any committee member for a schedule of work days and times or just stop by the park.


CT PHOTO

CAPTION: Memorial contributions for Fred Stephens and Charles Benedict were used to purchase this group of carolers and a whimsical dog on display at Simpson Park during Festival of Lights. Memorials also listed on a memorial sign on the tennis court fence and are visible for motorists as they drive through the park.

MORE ARCHIVES...

Festival of Lights Opens Saturday
Constitution-Tribune, Thursday, November 19, 2009

CAPTION: This lighted tunnel, built by Jim Hinrichs and Vern Wascher, provides the perfect entrance to the new children's area at Simpson Park for the Festival of Lights. The park will come alive with lights during the opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m., this Saturday, Nov. 21. The public is invited to watch the lights come on and enjoy hot chocolate, hot cider and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Santa and his helpers are also scheduled to arrive during the evening.

Final touches are being made to the lights and decorations for the opening of the Festival of Lights in Simpson Park this weekend. The lights will come on for the first time this season at 5:30 p.m., this Saturday and remain on during the evening hours through the start of the new year. The opening ceremony will include horse-drawn sleigh rides, hot cocoa, and a visit with Santa.

The lower center circle at the park will be closed from 4:30 until 7 p.m. on Saturday and no through traffic will be allowed between Washington and Walnut streets during these times. Those wanting to go to Saturday's festival can park along either Washington or Walnut streets or anywhere in the park west of Walnut Street.

There are several new features for 2009, including a lighted tunnel which leads to the children's area where visitors can see Santa in Santa's workshop. The park is also adorned with a three-dimensional lighted nativity, new black lamp posts that are festively decorated and many other lighted displays.

One particular addition this year is a power station at the center circle of the park, courtesy of North Missouri Construction Inc., Fellhoelter Electric, Inc., and SMC Electric Supply. Having power accessible in the center circle will benefit not only the Festival of Lights, but many events held at the park each year. This power station supplies power to the 50-foot spruce tree which is fully decorated in lights this year.

CAPTION: This large spruce tree, spectacularly outfitted for the Christmas season, is one of the highlights of the Festival of Lights for 2009. This tree is about 50' tall. More lights have been added for 2009, thanks to the generosity of Chillicothe and Livingston County citizens, businesses, foundations, and organizations. Power was added to the center circle at the park courtesy of North Missouri Construction, Inc., Fellhoelter Electric, Inc., and SMC Electric Supply. Having power accessible in the center circle will benefit all of the events held in the park each year.

Festival of Lights Taking Shape
Constitution-Tribune
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Photo Submitted

CAPTION: The first lights go up at the entrance of Simpson Park for the 2009 Festival of Lights as Darrin Newman and Scott Neill, of Illuminations by Newman, are seen wrapping trees. Darrin Newman and Scott Neill are donating their time to benefit the Festival of Lights that will officially open with a lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 21, at Simpson Park.

Lights and decorations are going up for the 2009 Festival of Lights in Simpson Park. The Chillicothe Parks Department staff has begun the process of hanging garland and placing lights on the hard-to-reach structures and trees. CMU is installing the entrance arches and setting up the displays.

Many local people are giving their time to help place lights on the many bushes, small trees and bridges in the park. Several local businesses are sending groups of their employees to be a part of this annual holiday tradition. Businesses who have donated funds, services or supplies will be recognized on a large sign to be placed across the tennis court fence in the park. The many individual contributors will be recognized in our local papers.

Plans shaping up for Festival of Lights; opening ceremony Nov. 21
Constitution-Tribune, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009

In just a few weeks, the lights will go on to open the 2009 Festival of Lights in Simpson Park. The Festival of Lights will celebrate five years of "making spirits bright" for residents and visitors to the Chillicothe community.

The opening lighting ceremony will be at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, which is a change from past years. Everyone is invited to come out and enjoy the lights and decorations, Christmas music, hot chocolate, and horse-drawn carriage rides.

"The community has been responsive to fundraising efforts, giving more than $12,000 to fund the 2009 Festival of Lights," according to festival coordinator Barb Burton. Plans for this year include replacing lights with commercial grade lighting and heavier gauge extension cords, phasing in larger low wattage bulbs for some trees and decorating the new black lamp posts along the walking trails.

New features have been added to maintain the integrity of project which has grown to be an important part of the holiday season in Chillicothe, Burton said. The new features include a lighted tunnel over one of the walking bridges, a children's area, Santa's workshop, large decorated spruce tree, and a giant new display that is due to be delivered in a few days.

"One of the pleasures of working on this project is discovering the joy that it brings to so many in our community. Many of the donations include notes of appreciation that are very encouraging to our committee," Burton said. The Festival of Lights Committee includes Janet Barnhart, Kathy Gilliland, Marsha Beetsma and Mary Lou Wilhoit. The committee has been planning since early spring.

Festival of Lights Preparation
Thursday, June 25, 2009, C-T

CAPTION: Chillicothe's annual Festival of Lights in Simpson Park is months away, but a lot of the behind-the-scenes work is taking place now. Glenn Derickson is going through the process of checking hundreds of strands of lights to make sure that all are in working order. When possible, he makes repairs to the strands if needed. Derickson, 73, is paid through Experience Works, a national, charitable employment program. He will work for the Chillicothe Parks Department throughout the year.

C-T Photo/Catherine Stortz Ripley

If you stop by the maintenance building at Simpson Park, you will find that most of the staff members are not there. They are hard at work at our community's parks, ball fields and swimming pool. However, there is a guy sitting at a table, surrounded by strands of Christmas lights. He is checking each strand to see if it can be used in a few months during the Festival of Lights display at Simpson Park. If it doesn't light, he can usually fix it.

Glenn Derickson has already begun to prepare for the Festival of Lights, a dazzling display of lights and decorations that kicks off each November. Derickson, a Chillicothe resident, is contracted and paid through Experience Works, a national, charitable, employment program. He will work for the Chillicothe Parks Department throughout the year. "We're fortunate to have a person like Glenn who has the knowledge, skills, and experience to help us with this project," said festival coordinator Barb Burton. "Once we know how many working lights we have, we'll know how many we need to order. Having this preparation done early will save us time in the fall."

According to Burton, plans for this year's Festival of Lights are taking shape. A planning group has formed and includes (along with Burton) Marsha Beetsma, Janet Barnhart, Mary Lou Wilhoit, and Kathy Gilliland. The group has met with other resource people from the community including park staff to develop ideas and set priorities for this year's display. Several new features have been discussed. A children's area, decorations for the new black light poles, large LED bulbs to decorate one of the large spruce trees, a large nativity incorporation one of the shelter houses, a lighted tunnel and a few other surprises are on the wish list for 2009.

The Festival of Lights is funded entirely through the generosity of the citizens of the Chillicothe community and the surrounding area. Monetary donations are fully tax deductible and receipts will be sent in January. To donate, make checks payable to Festival of Lights and send them to P.O. Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601.

Work Begins on Festival of Lights
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2008, C-T

C-T Photo/Laura Schuler

CAPTION: Chillicothe Parks and Recreation employees string up some lights on one of Simpson Park's large trees near the playground area Wednesday morning. The work is being done in preparation for the annual Festival of Lights and organizers say several new displays have been added, including an animated toy soldier, a waving Santa and a Santa's workshop.

The Festival of Lights in Simpson Park, a holiday tradition since 2005, will kick off with a celebration lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28. According to Audrey Svec, coordinator, several new displays have been added, including an animated toy soldier, a waving Santa and a Santa's workshop. More snowmen and angels have also been placed. The addition of extra electricity has allowed some surprises to be placed along the walking trail.

Volunteers have been soliciting donations, ordering lights and displays, placing the displays, making plaques for new donors, and coordinating the festival of lights celebration plans. They have also been busy draping garland on all the bridges, lamp posts, the tennis court, and swimming pool, plus stringing lights on various bushes and small trees.

This year, Chillicothe Municipal Utilities has committed to taking on the responsibility of setting up many of the displays as well as erecting the arches. "We are thrilled that the City Council with the concurrence of the Park Board has made the Parks Department responsible for putting up the lights on all the large trees in Simpson Park," Svec said. "We appreciate the commitment of support by the city entities for the Festival of Lights."

Svec said that volunteers can devote their time and talent to the tasks that present themselves every year to coordinate the details that take place behind the scenes to allow the festival of lights to become a reality.

Festival of Lights
November 23, 2007

Simpson Park was filled with hundreds of people Friday as they admired the lights and lighting displays filling the park for this year's Festival of Lights. A lighting ceremony was held Friday evening and lights and displays for the Festival of Lights fill up all 26-acres of Simpson Park.

The lights are turned on around 5 p.m. daily and turn off around midnight. The Festival of Lights will continue until Jan. 2, 2008.

C-T Photo/Megan Neis

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