It’s one thing to hang a well-decorated Christmas wreath on your front door, or create a nativity scene in your front yard. Both are pleasing as you drive through neighborhoods to see how others have welcomed this festive holiday.
But what if your job was adorning 135 acres with a myriad collection of fanciful lights ranging in brilliant hues from red, green and purple to gold, silver and sparkling white to thrill 150,000 visitors every year?
That is Rick Ewing’s job as assistant director for the Muskogee Parks Department. He began his career 28 years ago and welcomes the Christmas season in Honor Heights Park. He considers The Garden of Lights a vital feature of Muskogee’s Christmas celebration.
Each year, some new features are added to the holiday display.
“This year, the children’s playground will be decked out in lights,” he says. “I’m waiting for new colors to arrive.”
His favorite was a royal purple.
“When we converted to LED lights, and it arrived with a blue cast, it fell off my list,” he said.
Visitors never see the behind-the-scenes work that begins in late September to bring this technicolor show to life.
“It’s not flashy or pretty, but the electrical boxes are hidden all over the park,” Ewing said.
Visitors only get to see the brilliant beauty of sparkling trees and shrubs.
However, Ewing notes there are visitors who want to see the lights, too. Squirrels and raccoons are curious and can get tangled up in the transformers, creating havoc. Sometimes, it’s their last visit to the park. Not so for two reindeer, who return to the Papilion event lawn Dec. 15.
Being a seasoned park veteran, Ewing is proud of the entry tunnel that sets the stage for the experience. He likes the drive-through wreath at the tunnel’s end. His favorite this year is an 85-feet-tall pine tree.
“It’s inspirational,” he said.
The Honor Heights Park crew includes 20 people.
“They are the real heroes in this project,” Ewing says.
Within a month of dismantling Christmas, they begin preparing for April’s Azalea Festival — another park story.
PARK DISPLAY HOURS
Opened Thanksgiving Day.
Closes New Year’s Day.
Sunday-Thursday: 5:30 -10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 5:30-11 p.m.
Admission $5 per car; $10 per bus/10+ passenger vans.
No admission fee on Mondays.
Garden of Lights Run, Dec. 14.
Private hayrides for up to 35 people, $60. Call (918) 684-6303 for advance scheduling.
Papilion Gift Shop open from 48th Street entrance.