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Parks Department prepares 27th Holiday Festival of Lights

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WONDERLAND: A toy soldier stands guard at the entrance of TPA Park in Frankfort.
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GIVING A LIFT: A crew from Frankfort City Light& Power strings the highest lights Monday at TPA Park.
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PREPARATION: Parks Department employees have spent the last month preparing for the Holiday Festival of Lights with the help of various volunteers.
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BIG BUILD: Parks Department employees install a light display Tuesday in preparation for the 27th annual Holiday Festival of Lights at TPA Park in Frankfort.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

With the help of Frankfort City Light & Power and a long list of volunteers, preparations have been underway for the 27th annual Holiday Festival of Lights at TPA Park.

Last year, the display of well over a million lights was attended by over 100,000 vehicles, and it is expected to draw even more visitors this year.

As is the tradition, the display will be turned on Thanksgiving night, and it will remain lit from 5-11 p.m. each night through New Year's Day.

“Last year, we had over 100,000 vehicles estimated to have come through the park,” said Parks Superintendent Travis Sheets. “We instituted the one way (route) through the park last year, which organized our traffic flow. I don't know what we would have done (without that) because we had so many – our numbers last year were huge as far as the attendance. If we didn't have those people organized, I think we would have really had a difficult situation on our hands. We were also preparing for this year because we are on the front of the Indiana Travel and Tourism Guide this year. We realized that our numbers are going to be even greater this year. There are some tweaks that we are going to make, but we think we should be able to handle the traffic pretty well this year.”

Sheets said that there are many more LED mini-lights this year as well as new walkway arches in three different areas throughout the park to encourage more foot traffic. There will also be more color-changing spotlights installed on some of the park's trees. A snow machine will also be available to the Parks Department to “provide the ambiance of snow,” when it isn't snowing. There will also be a bubble machine that will operate when temperatures are above freezing.

“This is the 27th year of the Holiday Festival of Lights. We started way back in 1992, '93 and have progressed to this point,” Sheets said. “I call TPA Park the premier Holiday Festival of Lights in Indiana. I just think we are the No. 1 holiday light display in Indiana, and we get that comment from a lot of people who pay their $30 a load to go around the race track down in Indianapolis, and then they come here, and it is actually free with a donation.

“A display like this doesn't happen overnight,” he added. “It is a two-and-a-half to three-month process. So, we started a month ago putting up lights with the help of City Light & Power. Of course, we have other duties to do at the same time, the same as City Light & Power. They have different responsibilities, so they try to come over as they can to help us put up the larger displays that we need help with, especially with the height requirements of some of the displays.”

Volunteers have helped carry the load with people coming from The Farmers Bank, Encompass Credit Union and Learning to Lead to help set up the lights.

“We also have scheduled other groups that have interest in coming out to help,” Sheets said.

For the first time, a vendor has signed on to provide snacks at the park for the annual event. Arkansas-based Ozark Kettle Corn will be set up right outside the concession stand from 5-9 p.m. each night beginning on Thanksgiving night.

Then, of course, the concession stand will be staffed and ready to serve soups, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks from 5-9 p.m. as well. Donations can be given at the park between 6-9 p.m. each night.

“Right now, I am hoping we see 120,000 or so vehicles,” Sheets said. “I think that would be a good number. We also rely on the Street Department for all of the signage and barricades that we will need. The Frankfort Police Department will definitely be involved. We rely on them to help us with the donation box and to just be on patrol. This is one of their focal points during their evening outing as they patrol.

“I think this is a program that the City of Frankfort and Clinton County has really rallied behind, and I am excited about that. We started 27 years ago, and it has just gotten bigger and better every year. I think that it is great for our citizens and great for the city of Frankfort. We are known by our Holiday Festival of Lights anywhere you go in the state, and that is really great. The economic impact is really big for Clinton County. It is important to our county.”