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Local church helps light up the holidays

For the fourth year in a row, Lake Phalen will be lit up for the holiday season, with a little help from King of Kings Lutheran Church.

The IBEW Holiday Lights in the Park, which began Nov. 22, is a drive-along Christmas lights and music display, at Phalen Park.

The event, which is sponsored by King of Kings Lutheran Church, runs through Jan. 1.

Bringing people together

Lisa Engh, the Holiday Lights in the Park coordinator at King of Kings, said the church decided to start the event with the help of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in 2008 as a way to bring the community together for a fun event.

"We wanted to find ways for families and friends to reconnect over the holidays," she said. " We thought it would be a really fun thing for everyone to pile in the car and look at lights."

Last year's Holiday Lights in the Park attracted 53,000 visitors, which was a 25 percent increase from 2009.

Engh said they decided to hold the attraction at Phalen Park, rather than in Woodbury or other areas, because King of Kings felt the Lake Phalen neighborhood needed a little rejuvenating since it had dealt with a lot of crime the last few years.

"We felt like the Phalen community could use a little hand up," she said. "We wanted to bring some positive light to that community."

Over the past four years, Engh said she has heard from St. Paul police that during the 40-day event, crime is considerably lower, if not absent.

"We're really proud of that," she said.

A display of lights

This year's Holiday Lights in the Park will have a total of 55 light displays, including several displays with animations.

This year's main attraction will be its grand finale: a fairytale scene complete with an enchanted castle, a fire-breathing dragon, a frog prince and a princess.

"It's our largest display we've ever had," Engh said.

A total of 60,000 light bulbs are used during the event.

All 60,000 light bulbs are LED, which means that it only costs about $23 a night to light all of the displays, Engh said.

"We wanted to be really conscious of that," she said.

Contributing to the community

In addition to being a fun attraction for families, Holiday Lights in the Park is also a chance to raise money for some of the Twin Cities' charities.

All proceeds from the event, which costs $10 per vehicle, will be donated to Second Harvest, Union Gospel Mission, St. Paul Parks Conservancy and UnderConstruction, an educational organization.

"We want to focus on the basic needs of the community - education, environment, food and shelter," Engh said. "They're all really scrapped right now."

Over the past four years the event has raised $110,000 for its charity partners.

The event is run solely by volunteers. This year's event will see roughly 400 volunteers.

In addition to donating the proceeds from admission, Holiday Lights in the Park will also be selling a holiday compilation CD of local musicians. Some of the musicians featured on the CD include Woodbury resident Matthew Griswold, the band Redpath, which has a member from Woodbury, Woodbury native Phil Thompson, Tim Mahoney, a recent contestant on "The Voice" and local band the Blenders.

CDs are currently for sale at all Kowalski's markets for $10.

Another good year

Engh anticipates this year's Holiday Lights in the Park will see even more visitors because more and more people make the event a tradition.

"What's appealing to people is that it's an all-volunteer event," she said. "It's not only a fun thing for the community, but it raises money.

"I think we're on track to exceed the amount we had last year."

IBEW Holiday Lights in the Park runs now through Jan. 1 at Phalen Park, located at 1615 Phalen Drive E., St. Paul. The event runs every night, including holidays, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Admission is $8 per vehicle Sunday through Thursday, $10 per vehicle Friday and Saturday, and $15 per limo, passenger van or mini bus and $30 per coach bus. More information about the event can be found at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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