To add an extra draw to the Lights at Kennedy display this year, organizers enlisted local youth groups to take things back to basics.
On Sundays, in addition to the decorated displays, there will be a living nativity scene.
Starting Saturday, the holiday display will be open at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park campground every weekend until Christmas.
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Rich Lawson holds up the plans for a manger that will be featured in the living nativity scene, a new addition to Lights at Kennedy, Noon Sertoma’s annual fundraiser at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. Lawson built trusses in his garage and is planning hay bale walls for the manger.
"One of big draws this year, that we're hoping to up the ante, is the nativity scene," said event Co-chairman Mike Johnson. "We've talked to a couple different churches, and their youth groups will be the characters."
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, First Congregational and St. Edmond youth groups will participate, he said.
To build the stable, the Sertomans turned to their favorite retired construction worker, Rich Lawson.
If you go:
WHAT: Lights at Kennedy
WHO: Noon Sertoma
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, 14-16, and 21-23. Living nativity on Sundays
WHERE: John F. Kennedy Memorial Park campground
TICKETS: $5 per vehicle; proceeds benefit backpack buddies
"Anything that gets built, that's always Rich's job," Lawson said.
Lawson assembled the trusses for the roof in his garage, working from an architectural drawing made by Terry Allers.
"We're pretty much ready to go set up," Lawson said earlier in the week. "We'll drill some post holes and get it set up Saturday."
The stable will be located just before the shower houses, he said. The walls will be made of hay bales, and live animals will be there.
This is the 12th year Noon Sertomas have held the lighting, which will raise money for the club's Backpack Buddies program.
"Our club continues to support hearing and speech, but this year we're going to concentrate on the Backpack Buddies program," Johnson said. "On a good year we try to make about $5,000. It fluctuates, depending on the weather. Last year was the first time we had to cancel it for weather. You never know with snow and ice."
There are about 30 displays set up by businesses, churches and other groups this year, he said. Any group can sign up to decorate a space for no cost, he said, other than what they spend on the display itself.
"We're excited this year for a couple reasons," he said. "We have probably the most displays we've ever had in one year, and you throw in the fact that we're having three nights of the nativity scene, and we're involving the youth, and it's for the Backpack Buddies, you know - hopefully this year it all just kicks."
On days when the nativity is closed, Santa Claus will be present. That's always a big draw for the kids, Johnson said.
Cost of admission is $5 per car.
Every car that comes through will get a ballot to vote on their favorite display, and at the end cash prizes will be awarded.
"We give $500 for first place, I think $300 to second, $200 to third," Johnson said. "The only thing we ask is that the winners donate it to a nonprofit or charity. Basically, we turn it around and give it to another nonprofit."