In just over a year, Catherine Joppa's idea to have a holiday light display in Rhinelander's Hodag Park similar to the annual La Crosse Rotary Lights has gone from a suggestion to one step away from reality.
The city's parks, buildings and grounds committee unanimously approved a permit Monday for a Lights of the North display to be held Dec.14- 17.
Joppa, and representatives from the La Crosse group, brought the idea to city officials Aug. 17, 2016. From there the concept continued to gain traction. Along the way, the Rhinelander Rotary Club opted out of planning and operating the event, but the Lions Club quickly stepped in. Since then, the organizing and planning of the event has been done by its own group.
Eventually the committee and the council approved the event, as long as the city was not asked to pay for any of it.
"We don't want surprises that will end up costing us (the city) money," parks chairperson Sherrie Belliveau said at the Feb. 27, 2017 committee meeting.
Shawn Will of the Lights of the Northwoods group updated the parks committee Monday.
"We have had a couple of very generous donations, and we have had a couple challenges, actually, from the Lions Club," Will said. "They have given $2,000 to the event and they challenged us that if we were to raise a total of $10,000 for the event in public funding, they will give us an additional $3,000 on top of that."
Will said the Knights of Columbus and a few other organizations have signed on to sponsor some of the activities that will be held at Hodag Park in conjunction with the event. This will includes a group that will be running a photo booth, and a local hospice group that will sponsor either a walk or snowshoe event.
Will noted he has met with fire chief Terry Williams and police chief Lloyd Gauthier to discuss the planned bonfire and any traffic flow concerns.
"I hope that we have satisfied any concerns either of you may have had at that time," he said.
Belliveau said the event packet has to go to the public works committee due to the need for barricades for the requested street closures.
Will said the group plans to hold two community informational sessions Oct. 1 from noon to 3 p.m. and Oct. 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hodag Lanes and Steakhouse.
"That is an open session for anybody in the community to come and see what we are doing," Will said. "They can ask questions, maybe become involved."
Will also said flyers will be sent to all those who live around Hodag Park two to three weeks prior to the actual event explaining what will happen.
"I think that the community has been rather receptive to events that have been happening out there, as long as you answer their concerns and they are forewarned," Belliveau said.
"We plan to stick strictly to the timelines that we have laid out so we will be shutting down well within normal hours. We don't want to disrupt anybody too late," Will said.
He added that it is hoped that the event will eventually run for a longer period of time in future years and the number of lighted displays will increase.
The committee voted unanimously to approve the event package. It will now go to the Oct. 9 City Council for final approval.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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