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Volunteers create magic for Marshall's Wonderland of Lights

Marshall, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau

Holiday lights are set to turn on across the region – and that means work.

In Marshall, Texas, throngs of volunteers are putting on the 28th annual Wonderland of Lights.

The festival features more than 150,000 lights outlining the historic Harrison County Courthouse. Even more are strung throughout the  square in downtown Marshall. Lisa Agnor, the city’s finance director and chairwoman of the event, said the city chipped in $50,000 to cover the cost of the 36-day festival.

“What I thought was really great was our city commission held a town hall meeting. We invited the community members to come out and tell us, do you want to keep Wonderland going in Marshall? We had a really huge public support of keeping the event going,” Agnor said.

The city’s public services director JC Hughes has worked on Wonderland of Lights since its inception. The city calculated it takes about 500 volunteer hours throughout the year to put on the event.

“You really have to have a large level of volunteers involved. Same thing with the festivals in Shreveport/Bossier and Natchitoches, Louisiana. Every one of these programs requires just a huge number of volunteers, but that also provides a buy-in for the public,” Hughes said.

Once the lights are up, bulbs break, burn out, and get pulled, according to Hughes. Maintenance takes volunteerism. He says it’s also difficult to string lights on the turn-of-the-twentieth-century courthouse.

“You have an historic structure. You can’t harm the structure. It has to be put up in a certain way. Once you see the courthouse and see how ornate it is and putting lights on something like that without causing any damage is a major undertaking,” Hughes said.

The opening ceremony is set for Nov. 26. The festival includes outdoor ice skating, carriage rides, and projects at Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’s kitchen. A lighted Christmas parade is set for Dec. 6.

Minden, La., kicks off its Lights Before Christmas Celebration Tuesday featuring life-sized nutcrackers throughout its downtown, a nod to its German heritage.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.