Coming soon: Lights at Kennedy

Campground will shine with thousands of lights in 14th annual event

-Messenger file photo by Peter Kaspari This display, from the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Association, lights up John F. Kennedy Memorial Park during the 2015 Lights at Kennedy event. This year’s event begins Dec. 8.

As the season turns snowier, a few volunteers are already hard at work to fill the woods with lights for Christmas.

Preparations are under way for the 14th annual Lights at Kennedy at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, where once again businesses and community organizations will sponsor displays to raise funds for the Backpack Buddies program.

“We have 19 displays right now, which is a good number,” said event chair Andy Reed. “We can take up to 25. So certainly, there is room for additional businesses, but we need to know pretty soon, just so we can get them assigned a spot and out there.”

One thing Reed is excited about this year? Thanks to a $5,000 donation, there will be a new, musical entrance to the display.

“We’re going to be re-doing the entire entryway with LED arches that will be programmed and coordinated to music,” he said.

The displays filling the Kennedy campground will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 8-10, 15-17, and 22-23. That’s more days than usual, Reed said.

“One of the cool things this year is actually because Christmas falls on a Monday, we typically would shut down a week before Christmas, but our last night of lights at Kennedy is going to be Dec. 23,” he said. “We’re hoping families are coming back for Christmas, that they are maybe back over that weekend and are able to get out that Friday or Saturday night.”

Families can drive through to see the sights for $5 per vehicle. Santa Claus will also be there handing out candy canes.

The project is sponsored by Noon Sertoma and Fort Dodge Young Professionals. Reed helps coordinate the partnership between the two, as chairman of the board for Sertoma and a board member for Young Professionals.

“I’m the one that’s kind of negotiated this relationship,” he said. “This is my fourth year running the event, and the second year we’ve done it with Young Professionals.”

It’s always a lot of work, but very exciting, Reed said.

“This ends up being a lot of work, and you go through the motions every year,” he said, “but when you’re actually out working the event, and you see the families coming through, this is a tradition. You get to see the kids see Santa Claus — it’s kind of cliche, but it does make things all worth it.”

Anyone interested in putting up a display should contact Reed as soon as possible at 955-0602 or

Backpack Buddies has been a project of Noon Sertoma since 2010, and supplies elementary school-age children from low-income homes with nutrient-rich foods for consumption on weekends.

Lights at Kennedy

What: Annual holiday displays sponsored by community businesses and organizations.

When: 6 to 9 p.m., Dec. 8-10, 15-17, 22-23.

Where: Kennedy Park campground

Cost: $5 per vehicle. All proceeds go to Backpack Buddies.