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Holiday Lights Fair lit up for 2020

  • Santa greets visitors to the Holiday Lights Fair at the Route 51 entrance.

    Santa greets visitors to the Holiday Lights Fair at the Route 51 entrance.
    Devan Vaughn photo

  • The nativity scene is in the front yard of the Governor's Mansion at the fairgrounds.

    The nativity scene is in the front yard of the Governor's Mansion at the fairgrounds.
    Devan Vaughn photo

 
By Renee Trappe
rtrappe@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 12/6/2020 2:56 PM

For the 21st year the Holiday Lights Fair has opened at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

Visitors began touring the park on Thanksgiving night and will continue each night until Dec. 30. Hours are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and the $10 admission per vehicle entitles viewers to 55 lighted displays covering a leisurely three miles.

For two full decades the Lights Fair has been a tourist destination for tens of thousands of southern Illinoisans. The members of Du Quoin Tourism, who host the annual display, are hoping for a robust turnout again this year, even though one important component will be missing -- the music, crafts, vendors, train show and much more inside the Exhibition Hall on the fairgrounds, normally open for three weekends during the run of the Fair.

That part of the Fair has been canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a big blow to Du Quoin Tourism, said member Judy Smid, because the numbers of visitors always goes up on the weekends, as people take part in the Exhibition Hall activities, including visiting with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

But there is no way to control social distancing inside the hall.

Du Quoin children needn't despair, however. While Santa and Mrs. Claus will not be at the Holiday Lights Fair, they will be at Du Quoin City Hall over three weekends in December to greet children and families.

Amy James, of Du Quoin Tourism, said the Clauses will be at City Hall from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, on Dec. 4-6, 11-13 and 18-20.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be set up behind Plexiglass in the vestibule of the City Hall/Library building and can talk with children as they come up, one by one. They will start by lining up in front of the library, socially distant.

Visiting Santa is free, and preteen children in line to see him will also be given a red ticket, which gives kids a chance to win a Chromebook.

In addition, preteen children who attend the lights fair will be given a gold ticket. The gold tickets will be turned in at the Santa visit, giving those children a chance to win a bicycle (for 7 and older) or a toy basket (6 and younger).

"We didn't want to leave anybody out," said James, saying Du Quoin Tourism recognized not all children can afford to go through the lights display at the fairgrounds. "Everybody deserves that little bit of excitement that they could be a winner."

The winners will be drawn by Santa on his last night at City Hall, Dec. 20.

Smid, who has been involved with the Holiday Lights Fair since its beginning in 2000, said the tradition started with five displays and has grown every year.

"It was important to still have (the fair)," she added. "It will be different, but we'll be here."