A bear throws a snowball on Nov.29 in Island Park. The bear is a part of the Isle of Lights.(Samantha Gillis/Collegian photographer)

By Erica Dunigan
Staff reporter

Freezing temperatures or not, the community comes together to build a winter wonderland filled with lights. Area residents, friends and family can enjoy driving through a land filled with a zoo display, Land of Oz, and toy land. There are about 30 different displays of all sizes set up through Island Park.

Community organizers began the Isle of Lights tradition in 1993. Generous offers helped start a remarkable show. Donna Homan, owner of Donna’s Designs, said, “It wasn’t easy getting Isle of Lights started. The first year we had about 19 people donate $1,000 each for the light show, which helped us get started. Now we just take the money that gets donated at the gate. A lot of the displays can cost up to $20,000, so it takes a lot to put this together.”

City of Winfield staff work with community members to ensure the Isle of Lights goes up. Rick Snider, Merle Snider Motors leads the setup committee. He said, “Employees of businesses get together to help set up different displays. We set up all the displays in Isle of Lights in one day. Without the help of Rick Myers and the city we would not be able to set up a remarkable event.”

Members of the committee enjoy their work. Pixie McCoy, co-owner of McCoy Electrics, said, “My favorite thing about the Isle of lights has to be the set up and take down. It’s all done by volunteers. No one gets paid for helping put up and run the Isle of Lights. We had volunteers aging from middle school students to retired community members. We have over 100 volunteers setting up the Isle of Lights this year.”

Many businesses have several employees who help with the Isle of Lights every year. Ruth Parman, administrative assistant with Union State Bank, said, “ We have five employees that help set up and take down, but we also have employees from Ark City and Udall Union State Bank that come and help with Isle of Lights. All together, we have 38 bank employees that join other community members with set up and with running the Isle of Lights. Each year we have employees that run to get a time slot to help with Isle of Lights.”

“The Isle of Lights brings a small community together for the holidays. I was born and raised in Winfield and lived right by the park. It has to be the biggest memory that I have of Winfield. The way the community comes together to set up such a remarkable display is truly amazing. They don’t get paid for their generous help, and on top of that there is no entry fee for Isle of Lights. It’s a free event for the community. No matter what the task, this community comes together to get it done,” said Parman.

Not only does the community enjoy the displays, but people come from out of state to see the Isle of Lights. Homan said, “We counted 38 different out of state tags that came through last year. Altogether we had over 15,000 cars come through.”

Christmas is a time of the year to spend with family and friends. Jordan Unruh, nursing senior, said, “I love Christmas and one of my favorite things to do is to drive around and look at Christmas lights with my roommate and teammates.” Unruh’s family takes a drive through the display each year after the cross country banquet.  “My parents love to see what new lights they will set up in the park each year.”

Isle of Lights opened in Island Park Nov .21 and runs through Dec. 30. It is open from 6 to 10 p.m. There is no entry fee, but donations are accepted to go toward next year’s display.

After the lights come down this month, the Isle of Lights committee will meet in February to decide what new light display they will buy for next year.

Erica Dunigan is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at erica.dunigan@sckans.edu.