OTTUMWA — It takes a team effort to bring together the community. Saturday’s Holiday Nights ’N Lights showed just how well it can work.
The Wapello County Rural Fire Department worked the gate. Mike LaPoint’s gear helped keep him warm while getting visitors’ entry fees into the shed at the entrance. It wasn’t particularly cold — temperatures were in the mid-40s when the gates opened — but without the sun to help there was a definite nip in the air.
There have certainly been colder nights.
“We do this every weekend,” LaPoint said. “We did it last year. I couldn’t tell you past that; last year was my first year.”
Most visitors were greeted even before they got to the gate. KMGO employees handed out pens and, for a few lucky people, concert tickets. And they went through a lot of pens.
A line of a half-dozen cars at 6 p.m. didn’t let up. Even an hour after the display opened the line stretched back onto the road. Many of them were there for more than just the lights.
Numbers swelled at the skating rink in the Jimmy Jones Shelter. The “ice” inside wasn’t frozen, but you wouldn’t know that from the way many of the children slid, fell, and got up laughing.
Maggie Fuller watched, content to let others take on the slippery surface. She tried to make sure everyone who skated filled out a waiver before lacing up their skates. It was part of her service with the Lions Club.
“It’s been busy,” she said. “Every time we’re down here it sees like we get a really good crowd.”
Over the course of the evening hundreds of people spent time looking at the displays and skating as best they could. An Ottumwa holiday tradition continued to bring joy for another year.
And it was because a lot of people pitched in to make things a success.