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After five years, Festival of Lights growing brighter

by Jeff Haldiman | December 7, 2021 at 5:05 a.m. | Updated December 7, 2021 at 11:02 a.m.

Five years ago, a group of people wanted to begin a tradition at Binder Park because it was an "unused resource" during the winter. They hoped an outdoor light show would encourage locals and tourists to visit the park.

Today, the Festival of Lights continues to grow, and Homemaker Health Care Executive Director Jeff Buker said they've added to the displays to make them bigger and grander. HHC's Community Outreach hosts the festival each year.

"This year, we've got a poinsettia forest about a third of the way through the park on your left-hand side," Buker said. "The Big Brothers and Big Sisters are doing a jingle dash through the park."

For those who haven't been through the park, which is located west of Jefferson City limits, you'll drive a little more than a mile and a half seeing various displays along the way. The route is one way along Binder Lake Road from Rainbow Drive to Henwick Lane. Light displays include classics such as Santa's workshop and the Nativity, displays synchronized to music on the radio, and a drive-thru light tunnel.

"We're going to do an estimate of how many lights we have because I always get asked that and we've never done it," Buker said.

Also new this year is Brew 50 LLC who will be selling coffee and hot chocolate at the entrance. They'll be there Thursday through Sunday evenings.

"We want to expand that next year, and we also want to add an area to take selfies with the displays," Buker said.

About a dozen volunteers come throughout November to set up the displays. Then they run the displays and take them down once the festival ends.

"I haven't gone through other parks. But those who have, make suggestions as do our volunteers," Buker said. "We start in February to look at what we want to add and what could be big crowd pleasures."

The Festival of Lights is open every night, except Mondays, through Dec. 31. The park is open 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

The cost is $20 per car/$35 for bus or limo, and all proceeds will go toward local nonprofits.

"It's a big project, and this time of the year, we're ready to see the excitement this event brings," Buker said. "Five years ago, we were looking to do something unique and exciting, and it's now taken a life of its own."

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