Shelbyville "Festival of Lights" now open to the public

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One of the most spectacular drive through Christmas light displays in Central Illinois is now open. The display is in Forest Park, just off 9th Street in Shelbyville, and the city has a number of signs posted around town to aim you in the right direction. The light display includes over 500 different lighted scenes with several lighted arches that includes traditional displays like manger scenes,  a large lighted Menora, Santa's sleigh and his reindeer, and even Santa riding a motorcycle. There is a clearly marked entrance and exit. The Festival of Lights is free and you can drive through the display as many times as you want, but you will see a bright red booth on the driver's side near the exit where you're encouraged to make a donation. You can also walk through the display or ride your bike. But the absolute best way to enjoy the sights and get into the holiday spirit is in a horse-drawn carriage. Carriage rides will be available (weather permitting) starting the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 27 and 28). There will be no carriage rides the first weekend in December, but they will resume again December 11 and 12, and December 18 and 19. The carriage rides run during the regular Festival of Lights hours. On Fridays and Saturdays the display is open from 5:30 to 10:00 PM. Sunday through Thursdays it is open from 5:30 to 9:00 PM, and there are always volunteers on the property during operation hours. Like the drive through option, the carriage rides are also "by donation". The non profit group that operates the Festival of Lights says they start in August pulling out and organizing all the lighted scenes, which takes a good two months. By October 1st they are putting them up in the park, which takes about six weeks. Operations Director Bill Bly told WAND News some of the displays are so large it takes a crane or other large equipment to get them safely into place. Bly says they have tried to count the number of individual light bulbs on a number of occasions, but eventually gave up. But he did tell us they replaced 40,000 bulbs before they even flipped the "On" switch. Elementary school children get involved several weekends leading up to the opening and everything is done on a volunteer basis. The Shelbyville Festival of Lights will remain open to the public until January 2nd. For a link to the festival website, click on the "home" page on this website, then click on "sitewatch" near the top of the page.

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