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Lights of the Northwoods Finds Success Amid Pandemic

Lights of the Northwoods Facebook Page

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many holiday traditions this year, but one is going stronger than ever.

Lights of the Northwoods is hosting lots of visitors and collecting more donations than in years past.

When the sun sets in downtown Rhinelander, Hodag park lights up with thousands of multi-colored Christmas lights.

Cars line up around the block to view the spectacle.

“The windows are rolled down. The kids are staring out. Their eyes are just fixated on these displays. You can see the twinkle in their eyes,” said Shawn Will, the organization’s chairperson of the marketing and public relations committee.

Will has been helping to organize the event since it started four years ago.

This year, he said Lights of the Northwoods has been doing particularly well in spite of, or perhaps because of, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The response has just been incredible,” he said. “We’ve had people coming from Northern Michigan come down to see it. We’ve had people just from around town come in and see it once, and then see it twice and then come back two days later to see it with their other family members. So it’s been a busy, busy year.”

With more people driving through to see the lights, donations from the event are also up.

“We’re over three tons of food already,” said Will.

Food donations are being split between three local foodbanks, while monetary donations are given to organizations like the Special Olympics or robotics club.

Lights of the Northwoods is not over yet.

The organization will be hosting a fireworks celebration at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day to ring in the new year.

“You can see us kick off 2021 with a bang or blow up 2020 depending on how you refer to it,” Will said.

The Christmas lights will be on display at Hodag Park from 5 to 9 p.m. until Jan. 3. For more information, visit http://www.lightsofthenorthwoods.com/.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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