Though it’s just beginning to feel like fall outside, for Ardmore Parks and Recreation crews at Regional Park it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Ardmore Regional Park employees are already gearing up for the 16th annual festival of lights, which will open Saturday, Nov. 18 following the Chigger Chase. Crews worked to get the light displays out of storage Monday and laid them in the grass where they will go this year. Ardmore Parks and Recreation Director Teresa Ervin said the department has begun working on the display because setting up more than 150 light displays is an intense task.
“We always get started around mid-September, and we keep tweaking up until the last minute and sometimes even throughout the event,” Ervin said. “There is a lot to do, you don’t think about all the lightbulbs that have to be replaced and wiring that has to be done. A lot can get broken in storage.”
At the regularly scheduled meeting of the Ardmore Regional Park Authority Board, members voted on the new display that will be featured in this year’s light display. This year, in honor of the Mercy Train making its way to its new home, the board chose a “whimsical train” and depot station animated display. The new lighting display will be the second train the festival features, Ervin said.
The new display is estimated to cost just over $12,000 (funds come from a Festival of Lights account managed by the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce).
Board members chose the train over an animated reindeer wash,  a $36,000 carousel display and penguins splashing in icy water.
This year, the lighting display will also feature a new custom built display from Arbuckle Communications— featuring a cell tower being decorated by a holiday elf.
Ervin said the process of putting up the displays can be intensive. After crews lay all displays where they will go in the park, some displays must be wired together to function properly. For those that move, an animator will also have to be wired in.
“The big displays are in panels and have to be wired together,” Ervin said. “Then we start testing the bulbs and have bulb parties were we replace all the burnt out or broken ones.”
The Festival of Lights isn’t the only Christmas-related event the department is gearing up for. Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Alicia Henry said planning for Santa’s Workshop is already underway.
“We used to have the event at the old Dizzy’s but that’s where The Clubhouse is going to be,” she said. “We’re going to transform the Parks and Recreation shop into Santa’s Workshop. It’s going to be a lot of cleaning and hard work. We thought about not having it but a lot of people look forward to it, and if we took it away for a year, we worry it won’t be as successful when we bring it back.”
Henry added that when The Clubhouse is complete, the event will be held there, but until then they have to make do. The Board approved $1,500 for Henry to transform the space into a winter wonderland. Henry said they are expecting anywhere from 1,100 - 1,500 people during the two nights the workshop is open.
This year, the workshop will be open from 6 - 10 p.m., Dec. 1 - 2.
Henry wanted to assure the board that the event will still feature all of the same activities: photos with Santa, crafting and homemade treats.
In addition to holiday festivities, the board was given updates on many key projects the department has been working on. Ervin said crews finished work on one of the walking trails at Regional Park that often gets washed out when it floods. Tin horns were installed to remedy the issue. Ervin said the trail washout at Southwest Park will also be addressed.
Bids for The Clubhouse are set to open at the end of the month, Ervin said. Ervin also said the signage for the disc golf course should be in by the end of the week, and the grand opening for the course has been rescheduled for Sept. 22, at 11:30 a.m.