In the 90-degree heat midday Monday, Hot 96.7 FM kicked off the big Kiwanis Holiday Lights announcement with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” which garnered a couple of chuckles from the sweaty pool of media, city officials and business community members gathered at Sibley Park.
Nevertheless, as various folks involved with the first-ever Sibley Park Kiwanis Holiday Lights event took the podium, the holiday spirit was alive and well in July.
“It’s kind of hard to visualize lights and snow and everything,” said Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson. “But on a day like this, it’s not too hard, I guess.”
The press conference was held to announce major sponsorships by Mankato Area Foundation and CHS. The foundation is donating $50,000. Together with CHS’ undisclosed amount, as well as various other corporate and individual donors, about $94,000 already has been raised for the event, to be held Nov. 23 to Dec. 31 at Sibley Park.
The fundraising goal is $125,000, which is needed to purchase lights and supplies. Special features will include a lighted tunnel, 100-foot lighted tree, Santa’s house and reindeer, and an ice rink and warming house.
“It’s been a long road, but this fall it’s going to be well worth it, that’s for sure,” said Scott Wojcik, president of Kiwanis Holiday Lights. “We look forward to flipping the switch in five months.”
Mankato Downtown Kiwanis club has been planning the Holiday Lights project for the past 18 months, Wojcik said. The plan is to have 1 million LED lights in the Sibley Park trees, on the barn and play areas, and throughout displays on the lawn.
Several speakers Monday mentioned the hole in the holiday season that was left when Mary Circle and North Broad Street quit their light displays, which used to bring in families and travelers from all over to drive through and look at lights.
Anderson said he remembered fondly when downtown Mankato was well lit up, too.
“But this is going to be very unique,” he said. “I just want to tip my hat to the Kiwanis Club for getting this going.”
Anna Thill, president of the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Holiday Lights is expected to have a $2 million-$7 million economic impact on Greater Mankato — adding that the estimate is “day-tripper dollars” which don’t take into account the money some will spend staying in hotels. About 75,000 people are expected to visit Mankato to see the lights, she said.
Thill said the chamber still gets calls every year asking if Mankato has holiday lights displays in the community.
Terri Richter, finance account manager at CHS, said touring the Mary Circle and North Broad Street lights display was a family tradition for her as well. She’s excited a similar attraction will be at Sibley.
“We love this park,” Richter said on behalf of CHS. “This park’s our neighbor.”
CHS is a worldwide agri-processing company whose main Mankato location adjoins Sibley Park.
For more information, visit http://www.kiwanisholidaylights.com/.