By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Buoyed by several new attractions, Yukon’s 25th Annual Christmas In the Park is drawing long lines of visitors to witness this illuminated yuletide spectacular.
Recognized as Oklahoma’s premier Christmas light tour, Christmas In the Park will be open nightly through Sunday, Jan. 3 at the Yukon City Park complex.
Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby asks for the public’s patience and understanding along roads that surround the holiday lights venue.
“When you’re going to see the Christmas lights, it is a wonderful display this year,” Selby said. “But please do not block any entrances or exits to neighborhoods.”
Both Mayor Selby and Vice Mayor Jeff Wootton are among many hundreds of Yukon residents who live close to the parks and must maneuver around lines of vehicles waiting to enter.
“We’re trying to get out of our neighborhoods; we’re not trying to cut in line for the Christmas lights,” Selby shared. “We just want to go to the grocery store.”
The mayor had another request for Christmas light tour-goers waiting in line in their vehicles to enter the park off W Vandament.
“Please do not block driveways,” she said. “If those people are trying to get out (of their driveway), let them go.”
Christmas In the Park features 5 million twinkling lights and about 450 unique displays across about 100 rolling acres in the interconnecting Chisholm Trail Park, Yukon City Park, and Freedom Trail Park. Drive-through and walking tours are offered.
This year’s Yukon light festival features a few new additions that have increased traffic – notably an outdoor skating rink and large Santa atop a reindeer.
Other appealing attractions are a color-changing tree, selfie stations and Santa Express train rides.
“If you look at our displays, they’re just fantastic,” Yukon Parks & Recreation Director Jan Scott said.
Publicity surrounding Christmas In the Park’s 25th anniversary has helped increase attendance.
“It really is a tourist attraction now,” Scott said. “The skating rink has really added to the whole event. … it’s a real treat to the citizens of Yukon.”
Scott, who came to Yukon in the late 1990s, recalled the early years of Yukon’s holiday light tour where there were modest displays along Jim Watson Drive.
“There were some wooden cut-outs made by Joanne Oltmanns and two arches made by our Public Works guys, and YNB had some soldiers,” Scott said. “It was very, very basic.”
Scott and Oltmanns (a longtime YPR employee) attended a state recreation conference where they heard about another city’s Christmas light display, and how they accepted donations from visitors.
“Joanne was out there every night during the season taking donations from people at the ‘old’ exit to Jim Watson Drive,” Scott shared. “We stood out there in the ice and the mud without a cover.
“At first, when we turned on the lights, we had switchers and we made an event out of it. There were 30 panels, so everybody turned them all on at once. And now there’s hundreds of panels.”
The public’s support has helped fund new displays each year as Christmas In the Park has grown over the past quarter century.
“We’ve never charged anybody; the donations are merrily accepted,” Scott explained. “It first expanded into Freedom Trail Park, and then to Chisholm Trail Park.”
The evolution of Yukon’s Christmas In the Park has been evident over the years to anyone who has made it a yuletide tradition.
“At first, the displays were ‘flat’ as you drove through along the roadway,” Scott said. “Now they’re angled, and in the large area of the park in Chisholm Trail, it’s layered in lights.”
A TRUE YUKON EVENT
Many Yukon city employees and even community groups help plan and present this magnificent spectacle.
“It’s something Yukon is very proud of, and the whole city is involved really,” Scott said.
Southwest Covenant students, parents and teachers help put up Christmas lights and decorations through their annual Patriot Project.
“The City of Yukon has been able to expand it with more hands putting the lights out,” Scott said. “The kids are so excited, even putting the pink ribbons on the wires. They really like it and feel ownership when they go through the park.”
In closing, the longtime YPR chief shared a “hats off” to Yukon Parks Maintenance and Street Department crews for their work preparing the festive attraction.
“They’ve really outdone themselves every year,” she said. “It just gets better and better.
“It is very organized and Jason Worden, our superintendent of parks, is just wonderful to work with.”