|MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights – Tradition open through Dec. 29|
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 the 1920s.
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 displays.
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 with cutouts.
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 the community.
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.
Burkburnett ISD’s Overton Ray Elementary School Choir at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 6 Jefferson Elementary Choir at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 11 Burkburnett ISD’s Tower Elementary School Choir at 6 p.m.
Burgess Elementary School Choir at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 15 TUBACHRISTMAS at 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 18 Ben Milam Elementary Choir at 7 p.m.
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 Lights.
20,000 – Number of lights outlining MSU’s Hardin Administration Building, Moffett Library, Bolin Science Hall, Central Plant, and D.L. Ligon Coliseum.