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Drive-through Christmas light display coming to Tam O'Shanter Park

Lights of the world (copy)

A Christmas display lights up Pioneer Lions Island in Lake Sacajawea in December 2018.

The local options for spotting holiday decorations will expand this year with the launch of the first drive-through Christmas lights display in Tam O’Shanter Park.

The Kelso Rotary Lights in the Park will be on display in the park between Dec. 16 and 23. The display is being organized by the Kelso Rotary Club and the Cowlitz PUD, with support from more than 20 local business sponsors.

Lisa Nathan is leading the Rotary’s light display team. Nathan said the idea for a light show in the park had been thrown around for a few years, but gained steam after the success of the drive-through Halloween event at Tam O’Shanter last year.

“We saw how great it went for them. And if it’s that successful for Halloween, a drive-through light show should be even bigger,” Nathan said.

Kelso’s display will be a smaller-scale version of the Winter Wonderland light show the Portland International Raceway hosts every winter. The Rotary Club has more than 20 free-standing light displays, which are pre-programmed to run through different patterns, and strands of lights which will be hung across the road to create a glowing tunnel.

Volunteers from the Rotary Club, local high schools and other organizations will set up the displays and manage the lights while cars drive through.

City Manager Andy Hamilton had been a major proponent of the Rotary’s attempts to launch the light show. Earlier this month, the Kelso City Council approved a facility use agreement with the Rotary Club to allow them to take over the park in the lead-up to Christmas.

“For people to go through and celebrate some of the holiday season from their car, I think it’s a great thing for the city to help out with,” Hamilton said.

Attending Kelso’s Lights in the Park display will be free, though the Rotary Club suggests a $5 donation from visitors who can chip in. The donations will be split among Cowlitz PUD’s Warm Neighbors Fund, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and some partial reimbursements for the cost of the lights.

During the weeklong run, the Lights in the Park will be on from 5 to 9 p.m. most days and stay open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

If this year’s event proves to be successful, Nathan said the Kelso Rotary hopes to add vendors and more opportunities for people to come through the park on foot.

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