The pink, white and red azalea blooms have long since fallen from most bushes at Honor Heights Park.
Starting Thursday night, the bushes and byways of Honor Heights will blaze with brightness as the park presents its annual Garden of Lights.
More than 1 million colored lights glisten from trees and bushes or bring life to animated displays. The attraction draws 250,000 to 275,000 people through the park each holiday season, Muskogee Park Superintendent Rick Ewing said.
City crews and volunteers have worked for the past month setting up the lights and preparing other attractions.
Volunteer Joan Ingle spent Tuesday morning setting up holiday displays for the Honor Heights gift shop.
“This is my first year to do it,” Ingle said. “My daughter works for the Parks and Recreation Department, and I try to pitch in and do my civic duty. And I love this park.”
About five physical therapy patients from Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center also helped Tuesday.
“We’ve been working with them on community reintegration,” said Sally Aninias, physical therapist at the hospital. “We do this on Tuesdays and it gets them moving and out into the community.”
The VA medical center is located at the top of Agency Hill, where motorists go through the dazzling Garden of Lights entry.
Ewing said parks officials try to come up with new ideas each year — and not by visiting other towns’ displays.
“We tend to inspire other folks to do what we’re doing,” Ewing said. “Probably 90 percent of our ideas have grown in our brains. Usually someone shows up for work and says, ‘I have an idea.’”
One new attraction this year is a snack shop where people can enjoy coffees, hot chocolate and nice desserts, Ewing said.
Thanksgiving night also marks the opening of the annual Christmas Kingdom at the Castle of Muskogee. The Kingdom features a driving tour through some 2,000 inflatable Santas, reindeer, bears, penguins and cartoon favorites.
The drive-through ends at the main Castle building, where people may have a carriage ride, hayride, pony ride or camel ride, general manager Karen Cunningham said. There also will be a Royal Garden Cafe, gift shop and place where people can help make ornaments.
Children also may visit Father Christmas or, possibly, be visited by the Grinch.
The inflatable tour is open every night but indoor events will be closed Nov. 27 and 28 and Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11,17, 18, 22 and 23.
Cunningham could not predict any new highlights at the kingdom.
“It’s a surprise to me every year,” she said.
If you go
WHAT: Garden of Lights.
WHEN: Starting at 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Thanksgiving night through New Year’s Eve.
WHERE: Honor Heights Park, enter from Honor Heights Drive.
FEATURES: Dazzling and amusing light displays, gift shop, snack shop.
ADMISSION: Free, but donations encouraged. Hayrides, $40.
WHAT: Christmas Kingdom
WHEN: 6 to 10 p.m. nightly, Thanksgiving night through New Years Eve.
WHERE: Castle of Muskogee, 3400 Fern Mountain Road.
FEATURES: 2,000 colossal inflatable characters depicting variety of Christmas, Hanukkah and wintry scenes; hayrides, carriage rides, camel rides, petting zoo, gift shop, free family movie, refreshments, sandwiches.
ADMISSION: Free, but donations or gratuities accepted.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.