I sure wish I would have moved to Blue Earth a year earlier.
Why, you may wonder.
Well, I missed out on the opportunity to see the Blue Earth Christmas Wonderland display. The last year it was set up at the Faribault County Fairgrounds was the Christmas season before I moved here.
Last year it was put up piece-meal around town. Ditto for this year.
I had, of course, heard all about it when I moved here. However, hearing about it is one thing, seeing it is another.
It is possible to drive around Blue Earth this week and see a lot of the lighted pieces which made up Christmas Wonderland on display.
That is a good thing. Much better than keeping them in storage, awaiting a time – which may never come – when they would be put up as a single large display again.
It wasn’t until this Christmas season, and some visiting with Rich Belau and John Sawyer, that I started to get a grasp on the scope of the whole thing.
Wonderland must have been quite impressive. The scope of it was much larger than I had first thought.
Even now, it takes three semi-trailers to house all the parts and sections of the units.
How did this all come to pass?
Most of it was the brainstorm of Scott Ankeny. A group of folks had ideas for light displays and Ankeny built a lot of them.
The Wonderland was a huge hit for the seven or eight years that it ran. People came from miles around to go through the display.
Some years there were between 10,000 and 20,000 visitors. One year the display was featured on Mankato and Twin Cities television stations, and there was national recognition as well.
Christmas Wonderland Committee members say they raised over $150,000 to spend on the lights.
But it also took an incredible amount of manpower to keep it going. People were needed to set it all up, and run it every night. There was a need for ticket takers, guides, and workers at the Red Barn.
Some say it took a town-wide effort, and part of the appeal of the project was that it helped develop a sense of community.
After a number of years, the appeal of doing it again simmered a bit, and these past two seasons many of the lights have been put up by some dedicated volunteers.
They do add a lot to the town and the Holiday Season. It is just not as dramatic as they must have been all put together at the fairgrounds.
Perhaps one year it will return to its former glory. Then I will have a chance to see it in person.
Until then, a quick drive around town gives me a partial glimpse of what it must have been.