Volunteer efforts coordinated by the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce have made significant headway in erecting the lights and displays that will be part of the 2021 Holiday in the Park.

A work session over the Oct. 16 weekend was among the most visible signs the chamber now is in charge of the annual holiday display on the east end of Elmer Thomas Park, following in the footsteps of a volunteer citizens committee that had been running the project since the light display was moved to the park in 2007. Previously, it had been erected in the median of West Gore Boulevard, west of Northwest 2nd Street.

Chamber President Krista Ratliff said in August the Holiday in the Park Committee asked the chamber to take over the holiday event. Holiday in the Park has become a chamber committee, Ratliff said.

Officials say 2021 marks a year of renewed interest in the holiday event, to include new events, new displays and more lights. New displays include a lighted pedestrian bridge, rumored to be the longest one in the state, said Chelsea Rogers, who is coordinating Holiday in the Park for the chamber.

Officials may be proudest of something else: an ice skating rink to be placed on the concrete festival pad behind the Holiday House. Holiday in the Park won a $50,000 grant from McMahon Foundation, then matched it with donations from Liberty Bank, Arvest Bank, Goodyear and Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority to fund the $97,000 project. The facility will be overseen by a manager during the weeks the ice rink will be open at Holiday in the Park, with tentative plans later in 2022 to set it up at other locations, such as Central Plaza.

Rogers said the plans all are calculated to make a bigger Holiday in the Park.

“Whenever it was brought under the chamber, one of the concerns is that it has not been able to grow in a really long time,” she said, adding the designation of hotel-motel tax funds helped overcome some issues, purchasing new electrical cords, lights “and whatever is needed.

“They (Holiday in the Park Committee) really wanted the chamber to help it grow into something that could be rival of other bigger cities that have light displays.”

Among other things, the chamber has been able to coordinate an army of volunteers, who also are indicating community support for the idea of expansion.

The work crew that massed in Elmer Thomas Park Oct. 16 and 17 was 150 people strong. While there still is work to be done, a majority of the displays were in place by Friday, weeks ahead of the normal work schedule.

Rogers said this year’s visitors will see 20 new displays and more lights that extend along Northwest 3rd Street almost to its intersection with Northwest 6th Street. Northwest 6th Street is expected to become part of the display next year.

The ice skating rink, to be erected in mid-November, will be operational five hours a night for the duration of the holiday display and the Holiday House will be open every night. Rogers said other events will include hayrides, a petting zoo and two Christmas movie nights.

Activities will kick off Nov. 20 with the traditional Frost Ya Fanny 5K and Fun Run and a parade, which leads to the lighting of the Christmas Tree and turning on the displays, which will continue every night through New Year’s.

Ratliff said the chamber’s efforts are part of a five-year plan to expand Holiday in the Park, something Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk (current LETA chairman and former chair of Holiday in the Park) cheerfully admits is part of local efforts to take the designation of the biggest light display in Oklahoma.

The City of Lawton’s role is expanding the electrical capacity of the park, to support the added lights and displays. The council designated funding earlier this year to install electrical pedestals along Northwest 6th Street, just east of Museum of the Great Plains. The goal is to provide electricity along Northwest 6th Street to its intersection with Northwest 3rd Street, providing a loop within the park.

Ratliff has said the long-term goal is to make Holiday in the Park self-sufficient. Now, the display relies on donations and an annual $65,000 designation of hotel-motel tax funds, already spent this year by mid-summer on replacement lights and additional displays.

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