Lights at Kennedy illuminates park, raises funds for kids

Celebrate the season by driving through a forest full of lights.

The 10th annual Lights at Kennedy begins today at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park and will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. every weekend until Christmas, sponsored by Noon Sertoma.

Visitors will drive through North Pole scenes, past elves, Santas, snowmen and candy canes designed by area clubs, organizations and businesses.

There will be 28 displays this year, said chairman John Ueltschy.

Santa Claus will be present on Fridays and Saturdays to hand out candy canes, Ueltschy said.

On Sundays, there will be a living nativity display, complete with animals.

One display, sponsored by ABATE of Iowa, features colorful, caroling mice gathered around a miniature Santa’s workshop.

Two cutouts of Santa Claus ride motorcycles at each end of the display.

And right in the middle is a huge holiday Ferris wheel.

This was built by inmates at the correctional facility here in Fort Dodge,” said Mick Evans, who was helping set up. “We supplied the paint and the designs, and they provided the manpower.”

Goodwill of the Great Plains based its display on a popular holiday classic, and created an Island of Misfit toys.

The living nativity is in its second year, said Sertoma member Mike Johnson. It was added to keep the focus on the season’s true meaning.

“We were – not really getting too commercial, because a lot of the sites have some kind of religious feel to them – but we just thought it was important, and it just kind of fell together,” he said.

“We talked about the fact that there used to be a Living Nativity in Algona that people would flock to. We wanted to make sure we were keeping with the reason for the season, so to speak.”

The scene will feature sheep donated by Tim McGuire, Johnson said.

“He has a farm down by Coalville. He brings them in every day, and picks them up every night,” he said. ” It’s above and beyond It’s awesome what he does for us.”

The actors always make do, in spite of the weather.

“Yeah, it’s cold but, you know, it’s Iowa,” Johnson said. “We’re working on some heaters, and some hot chocolate.”

Ueltschy said the event is always popular.

“We anticipate between 1,200 and 1,500 cars coming out over the evenings,” he said.

As always the proceeds from the event will support the Backpack Buddies program.

“It will help us purchase food that we stuff into backpacks for children who are on free or reduced lunches within the Fort Dodge school system,” said Ueltschy. “That way they’ll have nutritious food to eat over the weekends.”