Festival of Lights begins Friday, Nov. 19

Display programmer Audrey Mertz looks over the digital display as staff makes the final preparations for the start of the 2021 Festival of Lights. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

One of the biggest holiday events in Northeast Wyoming is just hours away from ringing in the 2021 Christmas season.

The 16th annual Festival of Lights at Camp-Plex Park in Gillette, hosted by the Campbell County Parks and Recreation, debuts on Friday, November. 19, and will continue to shine bright every day from 5-11 p.m. through January 3, 2022. 

The biggest display of lights in the county has typically started on the official start of the holidays which is Black Friday weekend. However, city officials decided to move the starting date up a week to make a bigger start to the season as it will debut along with the Gillette Festival of Trees which also begins Friday at the Cam-Plex. 

“The Gillette Festival of Lights brings a long of people to the Cam-Plex over the course of its three days. We thought it would be a good mix to start the Festival of Lights with all the traffic from the Festival of Trees so that visitors would have the chance to enjoy two events at the same time,” Parks and Recreation Superintendent Kevin Geer said. 

Wes Terrell, left, and Buddy Cater spent Monday wrapping lights around trees through the winding road of displays at Cam-Plex Park. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

Technically, the location of the outdoor display is 2910 Doubletree Lane in Gillette. However, driving along Highway 14/16 there is no missing the massive glow of lights that greet visitors when entering from Axel Drive. Visitors are greeted with the 12 Days of Christmas display as they enter the park. With the radio turned to 107.7 FM, the festive sounds of Christmas complete the slow drive through the wonderland of lights. 

The enthusiasm surrounding the start of the 2021 lights is beaming already with dozens of people expressing their excitement on the Campbell County Festival of Lights Facebook page in recent weeks. 

“This display just keeps growing and getting better every year. Just another thing that makes Gillette Great. Thanks to all who sponsor this and thanks to all that hard work to put it up and take it down every year,” wrote Margie Ketterling. 

-- Advertisement – Story Continues Below --

“I can’t wait. It’s my favorite. I go through almost every day at least one,” posted Tracey MacDonald. 

Others noted the need to schedule their date night with the arrival of the Festival of Lights and some said it’s time to get the hot cocoa. When it comes to the spirit of Christmas, the fun is both ageless and endless in Gillette. 

The Festival of Lights with choreographed music on 107.7 FM will begin Friday, Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

Since being founded in 2006, the Festival of Lights has evolved into a stunning display of lights like no other in the region. It all started with about 300,000 lights, then it doubled by 2016 and now this year the mile-long trek will light up Camp-Plex Park like a Christmas tree with well over one million lights. 

It’s estimated more than 60,000 visitors enjoy the sights and sounds at the Festival of Lights. The lights and more than 70 displays – including a large LED screen for visitors to park and watch – span across 120 acres glistening to the choreographed music to complete the holiday experience. 

There are dozens of pieces to this show that make it memorable for visitors of all ages. It’s a project that is in the works year-round but it’s all hands on deck for about three weeks with a dozen or so parks and recreation team members. 

The event is free as always thanks to the sponsors of each display that helps fund the setup, operation and takedown of the Festival of Lights. There is a yellow donation canister at the end of the loop if patrons wish to contribute which allows CCPR to make improvements and additions each year. 

Letters to Santa 

-- Advertisement – Story Continues Below --

In keeping with tradition, Santa will have his mailbox location near the WPA building. Letters can be dropped off daily from November 19 to December 17. 

 The CCPR staff works diligently to make sure all letters reach Santa the week before Christmas. So, all letters must have a return address on them so that Santa can respond before the big day. 

Hayrides 

The popular hayrides through the Festival of Lights will return and are still free of charge. They will be available on December 15 and 22 from 5-7 p.m., depending on the weather. 

The Festival of Lights will be closed to vehicle traffic during those times on those nights for the safety of the hayride participants.  

To stay up-to-date on the annual event and any changes or additions, visit Campbell County Festival of Lights, a nonprofit organization, on Facebook.