One of the top three fundraising activities of the Rolla Lioness Club was set to open Friday night.
“We’re going to open tonight unless something drastic happens,” said Jaci Huebner, chair of the Christmas in the Park light display, while both precipitation and temperature were threatening to fall Friday afternoon.
The Christmas in the Park is an activity that families in Phelps County and surrounding counties, especially families with small children, look forward to each year.
“Last year we had more than 4,100 cars go through, and most of them had three or four kids inside,” said Huebner.
More than 70 lighted displays will elicit oooohs and aaaahs from the thousands of passing cars this year just as the displays have each Christmas season for more than a dozen years.
Along the trail of more than a mile, passersby will see familiar displays from years past, plus many new displays and some that have been gone for a year or two and are returning.
Planning for the event and overseeing the set-up of the displays by businesses and non-profit organizations, as well as working on setting up the Lioness Club’s own multiple displays has been time-consuming for Huebner and other club volunteers.
“We were out there last night until after 1 a.m.,” she said.
Hours for the display at Rolla Lions Club Park, Highway 63 South, are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. The display will be open through the evening of Dec. 21.
The display is free, but donations will be accepted. Most people who drive through donate, for Christmas in the Park is one of the club’s three main fundraisers. The others are the funnel cake sales at the Lions Club Carnival during the Fourth of July and the sale of chocolate-covered strawberries during Valentine's Day.
The money the club raises goes back into various community service programs.
“We give to the schools, to Shop With a Cop, to Heart to Heart,” Huebner said. “We started giving to the Newburg after-school program. We get requests all the time. It keeps us hopping.”
People who drive through the display will receive gifts. “RMU gave us $750 and the Lioness Club added enough to buy $1,000 worth of books,” Huebner said. Those books will be given to children until they run out.
“We’ll also give candy canes,” she said. And food coupons from local restaurants will also be handed out on a first-come-first-served basis.