© 2010 Idaho Press-Tribune

CALDWELL — Thousands of colorful lights will shimmer and glow when the city of Caldwell welcomes the holiday season Friday at the third annual Winter Wonderland event. The event officially ushers in the festive season with the lighting of the community’s Christmas tree and more than 325,000 lights that will illuminate Indian Creek through the middle of January.

In addition to the tree lighting ceremony, the event features a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, live music and entertainment, the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Winter Wonderland, kiddy Christmas train rides and strolling cartoon characters in costume.

New this year is Trent Herbst and his Iditarod dog sled team. They will present mock dog sled runs at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Herbst will also have a program at his booth on Arthur Street.

“Winter Wonderland brings the families of this community together to acknowledge and kick off the holiday and Christmas season. It serves as a reminder of how blessed and lucky we are to live in this great community and great nation,” Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas said. “It really helps us be reminded of the things we have to be thankful for. It gives people another reason to come back downtown and experience a family-friendly, business-friendly environment that we are trying to encourage in the downtown area. This is just one of those signature events that we firmly believe will help bring our community together. The lights are just gorgeous. If this doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit I don’t know what will.”

Holiday tradition

Several times last year, Nancolas said he saw visitors from throughout the valley taking in the holiday lighting spectacle. 

“If I was anywhere near downtown I would drive around or even stop and look again to take it all in,” he said. “When I was down there I noticed cars from all across the valley and some from out of state. I saw people walking around holding hands, families with kids walking together oohing and aahing over the beautiful display. That was just an amazing thing for the city to have people come to our community and partake of this signature event. It has become an attraction for the community and the valley to come and walk through it and enjoy the lights and the beauty.”

Events at the Depot

The historic Caldwell Train Depot will hold an open house from 5 to 8 p.m., highlighted by a chance for kids to tell Santa and Mrs. Claus all of their Christmas wishes. Other attractions include the popular kiddy Christmas train rides, craft and vendor booths, cookies and hot beverages and the opportunity to check out the working model train exhibit.

Light display grows

Each year since it began, the lighting display along Indian Creek has continued to expand. This year more than 325,000 lights will shine brightly on numerous character displays, the bridges that span the creek and on trees, lampposts and railings throughout the area.

“Our street department does an incredible job each year fabricating new displays for the event,” city Clerk Debbie Geyer said. “It just blows me out of the water how creative they are. They use scrap to fashion these wonderful displays like the little train and the Little North Pole shop at the depot.

“Those trees just keep growing so it takes more lights every year,” Geyer said.

Winter Wonderland royalty

Part of the lighting ceremony, set for 7 p.m. at Blaine Street and 7th Avenue, will include the crowning of this year’s Winter Wonderland royalty. Gary and Ramona Whitney are this year’s honorees. Both have been heavily involved in the Caldwell Senior Citizen Center.

Stores open late

Downtown merchants will join in the celebration Friday with extended hours for the convenience of visitors. In addition, there will be craft and food vendors all along the route from the lighting ceremony to the depot. Merchants will be accepting non-perishable food donations for the needy this holiday season.

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