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Bright Nights Holiday Lights Display Marks 25 Years

Spirit of Springfield

    The largest holiday light show in the Northeast marks a milestone tonight.

     With the flip of a switch at 5 p.m., more than 675,000 bulbs will be illuminated to begin the 25th season of Bright Nights at Forest Park.

     Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt said back in 1995 she never envisioned the displays of holiday scenes, storybook characters, and local landmarks set out along a three mile drive through the park would become such an enduring hit.

   "I never thought of it, I just kept working and try to make it work," Matt said.

    Since opening night 25 years ago, Bright Nights has been seen by six million people.

    Matt said to mark the 25th anniversary there will be special events.

  "We have 'Supper with Santa',we have gingerbread making classes, ice sculpture demonstrations, several local high schools will have their choral groups," said Matt.

    On opening night only, admission will roll back to 1995 when the cost was $6 per car.

    " We are going to have all kinds of contests," said  Matt with give-a-ways to the 25th car, the 250th car and 2,500th car.

    The idea for Bright Nights originated from a childhood memory. Springfield parks director Patrick Sullivan said when a brochure about holiday lights crossed his desk, he recalled as an 8-year-old boy riding through Forest Park in his family’s car to see wooden cut-out displays of holiday scenes lit by flood lights.

     " Making that memory for thousands of people that was the goal," said Sullivan. " I think we succeeded because hundreds of thousands of people have come through."

     David Cuoco, of the parks department, supervises a three-person crew responsible for installing and maintaining the displays.

     "These guys are all perfectionists," said Cuoco.

      More than two-thirds of the displays are now illuminated by LED bulbs, which are more energy-efficient and also brighter than conventional lightbulbs.

      A new display for this season has been donated by MGM Springfield.  It depicts a lion that appears to walk, leap, and roar.   The display is 166-feet long, 24-feet high and has more than 4,700 LED bulbs.

    Bright Nights is open through January 5, 2020, but will be closed on Dec. 2 and 3rd.




Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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