Local Government

Group proposes to bring back holiday displays in Moorman, Wavering parks

Santa in his sleigh fronts an illuminated castle Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, along the Avenue of Lights display in Wavering Park. A new organization is proposing to reestablish a display in Moorman and Wavering parks starting this year. | H-W File Photo
Phil Carlson
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 14, 2019 8:50 pm

QUINCY -- A drive-thru holiday lights display could return to Moorman and Wavering parks as soon as this year under a proposal introduced to the Quincy Park Board.

Representing Festival of Lights, Inc., Eric Dooley told commissioners Wednesday night that the organization has the backing of several business leaders and others in the community to reestablish the display in the two parks.

"It's my hope that you'll consider allowing a future display access to that park for set-up operations and removal for a future display," Dooley said.

Avenue of Lights offered the drive-thru Christmas park in the two parks for 15 years before shutting down in 2015.

The Quincy Exchange Club agreed in January 2015 to take over the display after the original group of organizers, Avenue of Lights, Inc., said they could no longer continue with the project. However, it was canceled later that year after organizers said that labor that had been provided from Illinois Department of Corrections work camps was rolled back.

Dooley said the group has worked with Avenue of Lights and is looking to buy some of its remaining displays and equipment, along with new displays.

"We have lights already on order, already in production and already scheduled to arrive," he said.

Dooley told commissioners that the work camps in Pittsfield and Clayton have offered services in assisting with the set up.

The group is working with a local attorney to register as a nonprofit with the IRS.

"We expect for every dime and every penny after expenses to be reinvested back into the display," Dooley said. "Everyone feels a real commitment to make sure the display is bigger and better every year than the year before, and we've worked awfully hard to create something that we feel like we feel like we can be proud of out of the box."

Park District Executive Director Rome Frericks said he was contacted by the group earlier this month about reestablishing the holiday tradition.

Frericks said he shared the information the district collected in 2014 regarding the man-hours and labor it took to prepare the displays for the public.

He said a license agreement -- similar to what the district had with Avenue of Lights -- could be brought to the commissioners as early as its September meeting. He will meet with Dooley before presenting an proposal to commissioners.

"With them purchasing the old lighting displays and potentially new displays, they're starting off on the right foot," Frericks said.

Dooley said he hoped that the organization could move equipment into the park starting Oct. 10.

Park Board President John Frankenhoff said he was confused why the organization hadn't approached the district earlier.

"To me you should have been coming to us or at least speaking to Rome months ago," Frankenhoff said. "That's why I'm kind of confused on the timing, and waiting until the last minute puts the pressure on us to work with you to get something approved."

Dooley apologized saying he believed that someone had reached out to the district earlier.

"We've really been hesitant to approach anyone with the topic, because we're very well aware of the size of the project, until there was a certain amount of certainty that this project would be completed and up this year, that the displays were in place and already scheduled to arrive," he said.