By Mitchell Mongold
New Year’s Eve at 11 p.m. meant the end for Yukon’s annual Christmas lights and decorations extravaganza known as “Christmas in the Park” – for this year, that is.
In 2019, the six-week City of Yukon event featured about 5 million lights and more than 500 displays while drawing visitors from 48 states and other countries.
Yukon’s Christmas in the Park is now dubbed as the state’s premier lights display, out-dueling the likes of the Chickasha Festival of Lights, among others, according to many locals and Christmas-light junkies.
Christmas in the Park 2019 traffic counts totaled 63,349 – 40,185 through Chisholm Trail Park and 23,254 through Yukon City Park.
There were four nights where total traffic counts exceeded 2,000 vehicles: Nov. 30 – 2,200, Dec. 6 – 2,019, Dec. 7 – 2,319 and Dec. 14 – 2,073.
Some 5,949 vehicles entered the park Thanksgiving weekend – Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.
The festivities featured 21,019 riders on the Santa Express train, with three nights exceeding 1,000 riders: 1,165 on Dec. 7, 1,148 on Dec. 13 and 1,073 on Dec. 14.
Christmas is a time for family – and the 2019 Christmas in the Park also was a time for couples deciding to become a family. There were 15 marriage proposals during the six-week period.
New attractions include a 30-foot red-green-blue color machine complemented by color-changing trees and a 3-D ornament arch.
One person who has a difficulty deciding on a favorite display is Jenna Roberson, the City of Yukon’s public information officer.
“There are so many spectacular displays that it’s tough to just choose one,” Roberson said. “There was a stunning light show with every color under the rainbow and another favorite was our Island of Color Changing trees, where visitors could stroll through tall trees that changed color ever so often. It was a favorite spot for photos.”
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Christmas in the Park is run by the City of Yukon and set up and taken down by City crews, and donations are used to fund new displays.
Southwest Covenant Schools’ students, parents and staff help with the festivities during its annual one-day Patriot Project by putting up decorations.
“I believe Christmas in the Park is such a success because of the care our volunteers and workers put into it every year,” Roberson said. “They are always looking for ways to add the latest technology to displays and reflect what people like. This year, they added a unicorn lighted display and a llama Christmas house, which were big hits.
“There is truly nothing like it (and that) is why people travel to see it and because the lights are spread out over three interconnected parks (Yukon City, Chisholm Trail and Freedom Trail). You could go several times and discover something new each time.”
Christmas in the Park is organized so well each year because of the efforts of City of Yukon employees, she added.
“We think about it year-round, planning ahead, purchasing displays, and looking for inspiration,” Robertson said. “I believe the passion that the organizers have for this event is reflected each year.”
BEGAN WITH A VISION
Christmas in the Park began with the vision of City Manager Jim Crosby in the mid-‘90s. The light tour included only a handful of lights around the Yukon Community Center in its first few years.
It gradually grew year by year to the state and nationwide phenomenon that is today, according to city officials.
Time and technology have only improved Christmas in the Park, making it tough for locals and tourists alike to choose a favorite display or interactive feature.
Yukon’s 2019 Christmas in the Park was a success and ran smoothly except for an occasional ugly spell of early winter weather.
Temperatures for the six-week event mostly stayed moderate, ranging from low 40s to low 60s. December 16, 17 and 18 saw temperatures dip below freezing to 30 degrees. And Dec. 30 dipped to 32 degrees, while Christmas day had a seasonal high of 67 degrees.
City of Yukon crews will spend upcoming weeks putting up the decorations and placing them in storage until preparations begin in August for the 2020 Christmas in the Park.