WORTHINGTON — For nearly a decade, Worthington's Love in the Name of Christ (Love INC) organization has coordinated a special event to celebrate the Christmas season.
This year, as a product of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Love INC is changing this up a bit. The annual Christmas Tree Forest event has been hosted yearly since its inception a decade ago, but a 10th Anniversary Drive Thru Light Display is being organized for this year in Worthington's Olson Park.
Businesses and individuals are invited to participate by being a part of the display, which will be lit nightly from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2 through Saturday, Dec. 5. There is no registration fee; the deadline is Nov. 25.
Greg Wede, Love INC's executive director, is excited that his organization can mark the holiday season in a new way while also raising money.
"With this being our 10th anniversary, we just thought, 'let's do something special rather than not doing anything,"' said Wede, acknowledging the cancellation of multiple activities and events as a result of the novel coronavirus. "We just happened upon this light display idea and started to pursue it, and everything just started falling into place."
The theme of the event will be "Let Your Light Shine," and admission will be at no charge. The goal is to raise $4,000 to support Love INC's mission of mobilizing churches and individual Christians together, across denominational lines, to provide coordinated help to neighbors in need.
Each participant in the event will be assigned one campsite with full electrical hookups. The only responsibilities of participants will be to set up and remove their displays.
The hope is that the event will resemble, on a smaller scale, the popular light display hosted during each Christmas season in Sioux Falls, South Dakota's Falls Park. There's already talk of potentially continuing a drive-thru display in Worthington on a yearly basis.
"There is a certain group that enjoys the Christmas Tree Forest to establish the season, but the attendance has also plateaued," Wede said. "We're kind of liking the idea of this drive-thru thing a little bit."
Love INC has been able to work with the city of Worthington, which owns Olson Park, to ensure access to electricity without any fees. The road that winds throughout the park will also be cleared in the event of snow, Wede said.
A map will be handed out by a Love INC board member when vehicles enter the park, and a free-will offering will also be taken at the beginning. Wede and others are hoping for a good level of participation that results in something to build upon in future years.
"We've already got nine (signed up) to take part in the display, and we're still two and a half weeks away from our deadline," Wede said.
People will not vote for their favorite displays during the drive-thru event, as they have for their personal favorites in the Christmas Tree Forest.
Interested display participants may contact Wendy at Love INC at 727-7291, or visit Love INC's website at www.loveincw.org.