Five things to know about Grayson County Holiday Lights

Staff reports
Grayson County Holiday Lights original drawing

This year marks the 20th year for Grayson County Holiday Lights at Loy Park in Denison. 

The display will open at 5:45 p.m. Friday and will run till 10 p.m. that night. The schedule will repeat each night through Dec. 27. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will not be a kick off ceremony or a wagon ride through the park on the first evening as in years past. 

Here are five things you might like to know about the county's brightest attraction. 

1. This is the 20th year for the drive through display. 

The display was the brainchild of then Grayson County Judge Horace Groff who had seen something like it in an Austin City Park. He took the idea to the folks in charge of the Clara Blackford Smith and W Aubrey Smith Found and the Oliver Dewey Mayor Foundation. The foundations contributed $75,000 each to get the project off the ground. They gave additional support throughout the years to extend the display and expand the electricity available for the event.

2. It is located between Sherman and Denison

The county's park just off U.S. Hwy. 75 seemed like a perfect place to build the display because the county didn't have to buy any land to get it up and going. To get to the display, exit Crawford Street off of U.S. Highway 75 and take the south access road to the lighted entrance. Please remember to turn off your lights if you can while you are in the park. Please stay in your car. 

3. There are a number of new displays this year.

The 20th edition of the display will have some brand new displays and some that have been updated. Grayson County Purchasing Agent Jodi Platt, who is in charge of the event, said the entire 12 Days of Christmas section has been replaced. In addition, there is a new Santa, a new 125-foot train and a new candy arch. In March, Platt received permission from county leaders to spend $142,307 on the new displays. The shipping for the displays was $3,000. 

4. The display is supported by donations only.

Every penny of the $142,307 and more came directly from donations on one kind or another. Grayson County tax dollars do not support Holiday Lights. Some county employees are paid for overtime worked at the lights, but that money is reimbursed from the donations accepted at the end of the event each night. In addition, those donations pay for the electricity and other costs associated with the event. Over the last 19 years, the display has generated more than $1 million in donations.

5. The display is staffed primarily by volunteers

The folks who take up all of those donations each night of the run are not paid for their work and they don't get a cut of the donations. They are only paid with Christmas spirit and hearty thank yous. Over the past 19 years, more than 3,000 people have worked a shift taking up donations and handing out candy. Due to COVID-19, volunteers will be wearing masks this year and practicing social distancing as much as possible. Two teams of volunteers work most evenings and there are a few spots left for volunteers.

To sign up see https://www.signupgenius.com/go/805044fa5ad22abf85-holiday.