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Continuing the tradition

-Messenger file photo
A gingerbread house surrounded by illuminated displays was one of the featured setups at the 2017 Lights At Kennedy. The event is sponsored by the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma and the Fort Dodge Young Professionals. The lights are set up in the campground at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park.

IF YOU GO:

-Lights at Kennedy will shine bright from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first three weekends of December: Dec. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20.

-Enter at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park Campground located at 1415 Nelson Ave.

-Suggested donation of $5 per vehicle. No change will be given for donations dropped into the bucket. The entire event will be free of personal contact for safety.

-Visitors can see Santa, tune in to the designated radio station and vote for their favorite display in a safe, socially distanced way while strolling through the park.

-Messenger file photo
The 2017 Lights At Kennedy featured this display of angels from First United Methodist Church.

Despite a difficult year for festivities, the 17th annual Lights at Kennedy this month is expected to be bigger than last year.

The event at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park will feature new and exciting displays available to the public in a socially distanced and COVID-proof way: a simple drive through the park.

This year, the 27 displays built by local businesses and organizations, including the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma in partnership with the Fort Dodge Young Professionals, include a 30-foot, 3D tree with 6,500 hand-placed lights that will make the park glow during the holiday season.

The big display was put together with a generator, 64 strips of lights and a giant post similar to the ones that light up fields at sporting events and concerts, said Andy Reed, Noon Sertoma and Fort Dodge Young Professionals member.

Several additional 20- and 10-foot trees will accompany the grand display.

-Messenger file photo
One of the 2017 displays at the Lights Of Kennedy was a multicolored Christmas tree.

“Last year was our (most well attended) event to date,” Reed said. “This is something the community really wants and needs at this time. It should be bigger than last year, and we’re excited about that.”

In a dismal year, the organizations putting the effort together have invested at least 100 hours since the summer to brighten spirits with one semblance of normalcy by continuing the Fort Dodge tradition.

Along with the displays this year are a few changes that should make the event safer. Attendees are asked for a suggested free-will donation of $5 per vehicle, which will be placed in a bucket — no change will be provided in an effort to eliminate hand-to-hand contact. Votes for favorite displays will also be placed into contact-free buckets. Santa will be out and about for kids to spot, but will not be approaching cars or handing out candy canes this year.

“We’ve really done our best to limit the interaction,” Reed said. “We’re extremely excited about (the event) because … with everything going on, we’re able to adapt.”

On Dec. 22 last year, a single-day record was set when 505 vehicles went through. At one point, vehicles filled the park road all the way to Webster County road P56. A total of about 2,800 vehicles visited the dispaly through December 2019, resulting in record donations that benefitted Backpack Buddies.

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