More than 350,000 watts of electric lights competed with the beaming smiles of children Friday night as a crowd gathered at Loy Park in Denison to kick off Grayson County’s Holiday Lights. The display will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night from now until New Year’s Eve.
“Welcome to the 12th year of Holiday Lights,” said Grayson County Commissioner Jackie Crisp. “It’s dedicated to the veterans, past and present and their families.”
Crisp then offered a prayer for everyone who attended the opening and led them in the Pledge of Allegiance said to a lighted display of an American flag.
Those who lifted their voices to say the prayer included members of the local military vehicle preservation group who showed up to lead the parade through the displays. Some of the vehicles even twinkled with their very own lights.
Ray Bledsoe, one of the organizers of Holiday Lights, said he had hoped that there would be a huge crowd of the vehicles Friday night. While that didn’t happen, those that did show up were filled with people who were gushing about the dedication and the display.
“We are just excited to get another year of this going,” said Bledsoe.
Crisp, a 19-year Grayson County employee who will leave office at the end of December, said the county is indebted to the Oliver Dewey Mayor Foundation for helping to purchase the first set of lights and install electrical power. But the foundations were not the only ones he thanked.
“I would like to thank our head elf (Jeff Schneider) and the maintenance department at the county. It takes several months to get this thing set up and working,” Crisp said.
“It’s all donations. It’s self sustaining. We have enough money to buy new lights every year and keep this thing up and keep it going,” he added.
Those donations come from the people who drive through the display, and some come from area businesses and cities. In addition, the display also benefits from the people who donate their time to man the donation booth at the end of the display. Those people work to warm even the coldest evenings with bright smiles and loud recitations of “Merry Christmas” as they hand out treats to the little ones and take up the donations.
“We never expected it wouldn’t be a success,” said Bledsoe when asked if he were surprised the display continues to draw so many visitors after 12 years.
“We still expect it to continue to grow. More people are going to hear about it and more people are going to come. And we are proud of it,” said Bledsoe.