2020 hasn't exactly been the jolliest of years, but Winside isn't letting that get in the way of spreading holiday cheer. For the second year in a row, community members have come together to light up the park.
Last year, Winside resident Kim Jaeger thought it would be a nice thing to ask volunteers to decorate the park for Christmas and to her surprise, a number of community members took her up on the offer. Last year she said people regularly dropped off lights, offered to help hang and even made monetary donations to purchase lights. This year, the call went out and on Nov. 15, the decorating began.
"We didn't really finish until last week," Jaeger said.
About 30 people, of all ages came out on Nov. 15, including Shane Frahm from Frahm & Sons Tree & Yard Service, who brought a bucket truck to reach the tops of trees and equipment. Jaeger said the multi-generational aspect of the event is one of the things that makes it so special.
"There were young adults with their kids and their grandparents, it's just fun to see," Jaeger said.
The biggest difference between the 2019 display and the 2020 display is just how much it's grown. Jaeger credits the community with being the driving force behind contributing to the project. For the last two years a Winside family has donated $500 to purchase lights and extension cords, and the hard work isn't going unnoticed.
"Every day you see someone and they'll comment on it and how it's a nice community event," Jaeger said.
In addition to just decorating, she said a group of about six men from town check up on the park daily, mostly on squirrel watch. Jaeger said the critters have enjoyed chewing through strings of lights. Additionally, sometime after the first of the year, she'll be looking for volunteers to help take the decorations down and get them stored.
The Village of Winside has played a big part in helping the event go smoothly.
"The City has been really great with helping us get more plug-ins and cords. They've been great with helping and getting us set up with the electricity we need," Jaeger said.
While last year the Village kindly stored equipment, this year, the office the lights were in is being renovated, so Jaeger said for now, they're using a donated horse trailer to keep everything in, which is just another example of how members of the Winside community are coming together to make this happen in a year when so many events small towns celebrate couldn't.
"I think just because 2020 hasn't been such a great year, this is something we could still do and practice social distancing," Jaeger said. "It's something that I feel like we really needed to cheer us up. When I drive by the park at night and I see families stopping out front or see kids running around out there, that makes my day. It's a little town, but we have a lot of Christmas spirit going on."
There's no shortage of Christmas spirit, or community spirit. Jaeger said Winside P.R.I.D.E has become very involved in helping to show off the park. She also credits her husband Dirk for doing lots of the hanging and organizing of workers. It's clear she's proud of her town.
"We really appreciate everyone who has contributed," Jaeger said. "We have people stop and give us cash and say 'get more lights.' That's just the kind of town it is. We want to make it bigger and better every year."
Jaeger encourages everyone to drive by the park and see the lights any time through Jan.1.