The thing about community and tradition is that they can slip away if you don’t give them attention, effort, and appreciation. The Celebration of Lights in Oshkosh is in need of some volunteer help right now to set up the 2.2 mile drive through experience at Menominee Park.
Celebration of Lights (COL) always starts on Black Friday. Currently volunteers are working from 9am to 3pm with a group of 2-5 volunteers at a time. Historically they’re working with 8 to 10 volunteers at a time to set up the 70 displays and 300 cutouts. It usually takes all of October and November to set it up, and this year there’s some concerns about setting it up in time.
“It’s not heavy work and no one leaves the ground. It can be handled by anyone. Usually 7 to 10 lbs. is the most anyone lifts,” says Leon Thompson, who heads the COL effort. It’s a very safe and easy going volunteer position.
Thompson took over after the founder of COL, Tom Stephany, passed away in 2011. Stephany was the Oshkosh Parks director at the time and was inspired by a holiday lights experience he stumbled upon in Texas. When Stephany was in poor health and could no longer handle the COL, Thompson felt, ” I don’t want to see this go down.”
There is optimism around the completion of the project. Amy Albright, Executive Director of the Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau said, “This is a big deal for Oshkosh, and it’s a lot of work. I’m confident we can make it happen, but we definitely need some help.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed the way we engage with our communities. The Oshkosh COL is an example of this and is in need of volunteers. It is work that is accessible to all people. Even parents of high school students are encouraged to volunteer with their kids. Thompson told me, ” It means the world to me to keep this going. It’s got a good group of board members and volunteers, it’s just not enough.”
This is an opportunity to see what being a part of a community really is. As Thompson puts it, “For me this is a chance to provide a holiday activity for everyone.”
COL will be all drive through and contact-less this year. That means no Santa this year, but there will be a drive by Santa. To get involved, go on their website, oshkoshcol.com. There you’ll find a link to sign up and that’s how they line up volunteers.