For many in North Texas and
southern Oklahoma, the holiday season would not be the same without one beloved
tradition – the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights. The 2018 holiday season will
officially begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, when those displays are brought to
life. This year marks the 44th anniversary of MSU Texas’ association with the
tradition begun by Wichita Falls businessman L.T. Burns and his wife Lillian in
MSU’s carillonneur Jim Quashnock
will begin the festivities at 5:30 p.m. with holiday music on the Redwine
Carillon in the Hardin Administration Building tower. At 6 p.m., MSU Texas President
Suzanne Shipley will welcome guests before the lights are turned on.
The Ben Franklin Elementary
Choir will sing at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Hardin Building, and 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.
Food trucks will be parked
south of the Hardin Administration Building. Trucks scheduled to participate
include 4-Girls Wood Fired Pizza, Bahama Buck’s, Best Bayou Bites, Gypsy Kit, Kona
Ice, Mija’s, McKinney BBQ, Old Time Funnel Cakes, and Tasty Beats.
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,
the couple 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
Dirk Welch, coordinator for
the Fantasy of Lights, said that MSU is honored and proud to continue such a
remarkable and cherished tradition as the Fantasy of Lights. “This 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,” Welch said.
Wichita Falls Independent
School District’s Career Education Center continued its tradition of being part
of the Fantasy of Lights by refurbishing the Gingerbread House, Snow White
& the Seven Dwarfs, the Elf Band, Humpty Dumpty, and the Lions Cage.
New this year are two toy
soldiers who stand their post at a guard shack, a decorated boulder donated by
Boulder Designs, and a new chair for Santa Claus, which will be placed in an
area for photos after Santa’s visit. Returning this year are the photo op spots
of Frosty’s Friends bench, and the character village of cartoon personalities
Also new this year is a
nightly hunt for Burnie the Elf. Those who spot Burnie hiding on various
displays can enter a nightly drawing for prizes.
The Fantasy of Lights 5K &
1-Mile Fun Run will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, beginning at the Hardin
Lawn. Registration for the 5K is $25, and $15 for the 1-mile fun run. MSU
students run free. The FIRST 100 contestants to register will receive a
long-sleeved race T-shirt and commemorative ornament. Register online.
A $25 gift card will be
awarded to the fastest male and female 5K runners, the best dressed
holiday-themed male and female participants, and the worst dressed holiday-themed
male and female participants. Santa Claus will make a special guest appearance.
All registration proceeds help support the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights. Toys
and canned food donations will be accepted to support various entities within
Festive holiday music, hot
chocolate, water, and snacks will be provided. The character village will be
available for photos. Check-in and late registration begins at 9:30 a.m. with
race beginning at 10 a.m. Foods trucks will be on-site.
Those special letters to Santa
may be deposited in Santa’s Mailbox, which will be available from Nov. 16 to
Dec. 14 on the Fantasy of Lights grounds. Include a self-address stamped
envelope for Santa’s reply. Contact the City of Wichita Falls Parks and
Recreation office at 940-761-7490
for more information.
Future musical performances scheduled include:
Tuesday, Dec. 4 Fain Elementary Choir at 6 p.m.
ISD’s Overton Ray Elementary School Choir at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 6 Jefferson Elementary Choir at 6:30
Tuesday, Dec. 11 Burkburnett ISD’s Tower Elementary
School Choir at 6 p.m.
Elementary School Choir at 6:30 p.m.
15 TUBACHRISTMAS at 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 18 Ben Milam Elementary Choir at 7
Performances will be in front
of the Hardin Building.
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. Donations also may be made online.
The displays will be turned on
seven days a week from dusk to 10 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 29. Special
daytime hours for school groups are 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For
more information visit the Fantasy of Lights
website or call 940-397-4352.
Fantasy of Lights by the numbers
200,000 – Estimated number of
visitors to the Fantasy of Lights each year.
41 – Number of displays.
2,000 – Approximate number of
man-hours involved in display refurbishment and maintenance, setup and take
down, and coordination of the various aspects of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of
20,000 – Number of lights
outlining MSU’s Hardin Administration Building, Moffett Library, Bolin Science
Hall, Central Plant, and D.L. Ligon Coliseum.