SPANISH FORK — It's been 13 years since the first string of lights was switched on Thanksgiving night in Canyon View Park to mark the city's annual Festival of Lights.
Since then it's become a tradition for many families to drive through the twisting and turning, colorful, mile-long route to celebrate the holiday spirit. Some bundle up and scramble onto horse-drawn wagons filled with hay. Others simply pile into the family car, minivan or sport utility vehicle. Still others charter a bus and bring the neighborhood.
The twinkling fantasy land of more than 1 million lights drew 13,554 visitors last year.
This year at least that many are expected to visit, parks and recreation director Dale R. Robinson said. The event brought in $64,291 last year, while the city spent $40,242, he said.
"Any profit is plowed back into it," Mayor Dale R. Barney said.
"It's gotten to be quite big. Sometimes cars are backed up to (U.S. 6)," he said.
Lighted displays include holiday and fantasy themes, from Santa Claus to dragons. Animated displays include lighted animals, dinosaurs, leaping frogs and bears. Favorites include the large toyland castle, tunnels of lights, waving Santa Claus, polar bears, reindeer, penguins, skiers and toys.
Every year new displays add to the sparkle.
"This year, look for the north wind to blow and a bear catching a fish," Robinson said.
The event opened Monday for a special showing for area mayors, city councils, city staff and the press.
Highlights of the Festival of Lights at Canyon View Park in Spanish Fork include:
The 40-foot wide entry arch greets spectators. It's 29 feet high.
A 20-foot high water spray in a park lake is lighted from the base to provide a spectacular effect.
The lighted sea serpent in the lake was given a second hump this year. The serpent is 48 feet long and 12 feet high.
A large tree in the park dazzles with 17,500 miniature pink lights.
Lighted three-dimensional deer figures peek out from the trees.
Other three-dimensional figures include two wood-carved polar bears.
A large horse-drawn sleigh and horses display measures 34 feet long and 15 feet high.
A winter sports park village recalls the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Utah.
Sixteen archways and tunnels of twinkling lights span the route.
A toyland area includes a lighted toy drum, spinning top, duck-pull toy, doll and ball.
If you go
What: Festival of Lights
Where: Take southbound I-15 to Exit 261, or northbound I-15 to Exit 260. Travel on U.S. 6 for five miles. Turn right at Little Acorn Drive-In and Chevron sign. The entrance is on the right, just a few hundred feet past a bridge.
When: from Nov. 24 through the Christmas holidays
How much: $5 per carload, $25 bus, gift certificates available: Spanish Fork City Hall, 40 S. Main
Web site: www.spanishfork.org