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Lights will stay on as Woodbury church passes the torch

This will be King of Kings Lutheran Church’s last year organizing Holiday Lights in the Park, which runs Nov. 26 to Jan. 1 in Lake Phalen Park, since the St. Paul police will be taking over the event next year. (Submitted photo)

The lights will go out on King of Kings Lutheran Church’s involvement with Holiday Lights in the Park next year.

King of Kings will hand off control of the annual drive-along Christmas lights display in Lake Phalen Park next year to the St. Paul police.

“We love the event, it’s been very successful, so we were really torn about what to do,” said Lisa Engh, co-chair of Holiday Lights of the Park with King of Kings. “But we’re joyful that the community there has embraced it enough and they loved it enough to want to take ownership of it.”

Engh said King of Kings was approached last year by the police department about handing over control of the event.

It was a difficult decision, Engh said, but sustaining the event was becoming more difficult because it took an average of 350 volunteers from King of Kings to work the event every night.

“We built the foundation,” she said, “but if they want to take it over and sustain it, we really praise that.”

Holiday Lights in the Park was started six years ago as a way to bring families together.

“You can stay nice and toasty and warm in your car, so every age seems to enjoy the event,” Engh said. “Plus, during the holidays, families are being torn in all different directions, so this is a chance for them to spend quality time together.

Additionally, the event provides some much needed “light” to the Lake Phalen neighborhood, Engh said.

“Our heart really is in Phalen Park because the neighborhood was struggling with crime,” she said. “It needed the light, it needed the community. It brought a positive aspect to that neighborhood.”

The 2013 display

This year’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Holiday Lights in the Park will run every night from Nov. 26 through Jan. 1 at Lake Phalen Park.

All proceeds from ticket sales, which are $10 per vehicle on the weekends, $8 per vehicle during the week, $15 per limo and $30 per coach bus, are donated to Second Harvest Heartland, Union Gospel Mission, St. Paul Parks Conservancy and UnderConstruction, an educational organization.

Last year’s event brought in nearly 82,000 people and $80,000.

In the five years that the event has been around, a total of $250,000 has been donated. 

The 2013 display, Engh said, will include roughly 60 individual light displays, which is the most the event has ever had.

The big attraction this year, Engh said, will be “Noah’s Wild Ark.”

“It’s really bright and colorful and full of animals,” Engh said. “We at King of Kings are really glad that Noah got in there this year.”

Another new attraction at this year’s Holiday Lights in the Park is that there will be one stretch of the drive that will have displays that are military themed.

“We have a lot of military come through each year,” Engh said. “We want to think of ways we could repay those who have been so good to us.”

Additionally, all military personnel, and their families, will get free admission to the event on Dec. 3.

“We so appreciate their service that this is just a little thing we can do for them,” she said.

As part of the Holiday Lights in the Park, the organization will be releasing its annual holiday album, which will feature Minnesota musicians such as True North, Redpath, Ari Herstand, Mick Sterling and Woodbury native Phil Thompson.

In conjunction with the album, which is for sale at the event or at Kowalski’s Markets for $10, a holiday concert, featuring the artists on the album, will be held Dec. 8 at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis.

Even though King of Kings won’t be in charge of Holiday Lights in the Park next year, Engh said, she hopes the event continues to grow and thrive.

“We want families to create those holiday traditions together,” she said. “It’s a neat way to celebrate the holy season.”

Holiday Lights in the Park runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 1 at Lake Phalen Park, 1615 Phalen Drive East in St. Paul. More information 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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