The 2017 holiday season will officially begin for
North Texas when one of the area’s most beloved traditions comes to life. The
MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Christmas displays will be turned on at 6 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 20, marking the 43nd anniversary of MSU’s association with the
tradition begun by Wichita Falls businessman L.T. Burns and his wife Lillian in
the 1920s. The final night for the lights is Christmas night.
MSU’s carillonneur Jim Quashnock will begin the
evening’s events at 5:30 with holiday music on the Redwine Carillon in the
Hardin Administration Building tower. After the lighting ceremony, students
from Ben Franklin Elementary Choir will sing at 6:30 p.m. in front of the
Hardin Building. The MSU Fantasy of Lights Wind Ensemble concert will begin at
7 p.m. in Akin Auditorium. Santa Claus will join the festivities to visit with
children, and free hot chocolate will be served.
In the 1920s when the Burns were newlyweds, they could
only afford to place a single bulb on a tree on the front porch as a Christmas
decoration. With Burns’ success in the oil industry, he began adding more
lights and displays each year. He died in a car accident in 1954, but Mrs.
Burns continued adding to the displays at their home on Clarinda Avenue and
Harrison Street. After her death in 1971, the lights were left to her son, who
died in 1974. The lights were then in the care of Archer City. The town offered
the lights to Midwestern on the condition that they be operated free of charge
as a memorial to Mrs. Burns. A photo of Mrs. Burns greeting visitors is posted
near the welcome sign. Today, descendants of the Burns are active in the
Fantasy of Lights work and sponsor several of the displays.
Dirk Welch, coordinator for the Fantasy of Lights,
said that the exhibition is a tribute to Mrs. Burns and a reminder to all of
the joy, wonderment, and magic that is a part of the holiday season. “MSU is
honored and proud to continue such a remarkable and cherished tradition,” Welch
Wichita Falls Independent School District’s Carrigan
Career and Technical Center continued its tradition of refurbishing some of the
older displays. Carrigan students worked on the toy castle, a revolving parade
of Disney characters.
New this year are Frosty’s Friends photo bench, and a
character village of well-known cartoon personalities, including Olaf,
Olaf/Sven, Mickey, Minnie, Frosty, Crystal, the Grinch, and Cindy Lou Who with
cutouts for photo ops.
Those special letters to Santa may be deposited in
Santa’s Mailbox, which will be available from Nov. 17 to Dec. 15 on the Fantasy
of Lights grounds. Contact the City of Wichita Falls Parks and Recreation
office at 940-761-7490
for more information.
Wichita Falls TUBACHRISTMAS will perform at 4 p.m. Saturday,
Dec. 16, in front of the Hardin Building. In the event of inclement weather, the performance will be in Akin Auditorium.
Admission to the Fantasy of Lights is free. Donations
are welcomed and needed to maintain the displays, and to keep the Fantasy of
Lights a successful holiday tradition. Look for newly designed donation boxes
stationed in the displays. Online donations may be made at fol.mwsu.edu/.
The displays will be turned on seven days a week from
dusk to 10 p.m. through Christmas night, Monday, Dec. 25. Special daytime hours for school groups are 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For more information visit, fol.mwsu.edu/
or call 940-397-4352.
Fantasy of Lights by the numbers
200,000 – Estimated number of visitors to the Fantasy
of Lights each year.
38 – Number of displays.
1,300 – Approximate number of man hours spent setting
up and maintaining the displays.
20,000 – Number of lights outlining MSU’s Hardin
Administration Building, Moffett Library, Bolin Science Hall, Central Plant,
and D.L. Ligon Coliseum.