CALDWELL — With the flip of a switch, Christmas came to downtown Caldwell Friday night.
A large crowd lined the banks of Indian Creek in darkness until it was suddenly illuminated with more than 500,000 LED lights. The lights covered two pedestrian bridges over the creek, creating twinkling tunnels. Bright displays featuring trains, penguins and even a vineyard glittered alongside the water, while not a tree in sight was left undressed for the fifth annual Winter Wonderland.
Caldwell’s 35-foot-tall city Christmas tree sparkled with white and blue stripes of lights and was topped with an American flag. The 36-year-old tree was donated to the city by Lawrence and Juanita Coatney, who were there to watch it light up.
“It seems like every year it gets better,” Scott Curtis of Caldwell said. “And it seems like every year there are more people here.”
Curtis was with his wife Kathleen and their three children Leah, 10, Joseph, 8, and Adriana, 6. The family has come to the event nearly every year since it began. Kathleen said over the years the event seems to draw more and more families to downtown Caldwell. Scott added that hopefully the crowds are helping attract customers to the businesses there.
But for Leah Curtis, the highlight of the night was local celebrity Clyde the Camel. He was in attendance along with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Rebecca Richmond, a former Caldwell resident who now lives in Boise, made the trek out to Winter Wonderland with her four kids who were excited to meet the man from the North Pole.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I like the bridges and the tree. All it (the tree) needs are some orange lights.”
The Caldwell Street Department worked for six weeks to put the display together. It took a crew of about 30 people from the city along with help from about 20 volunteers. This year’s display grew by 100,000 lights over last year. The Street Department also built the 15 lighted displays using recycled scrap metal.
Eric Boyum, the night’s emcee and a member of the event’s committee, said the crowd looked a little bigger than last year.
“I’m pleased with it,” he said.
Up next, the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce Night Light Parade will glow through the streets Dec. 1. The Winter Wonderland light display will be up through Jan. 15.