Changes are coming to the beloved light show, Bentleyville Tour of Lights, which calls Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park home for 35 days of the winter. Formerly a private light show that was hosted in the front yard of the founder, Nathan Bentley, Bentleyville will be adding several new character displays as well as more lights for the 2013 holiday season. When the light show first started in 2001, Bentley kept adding lights to the display in his front yard and subsequently ran out of room, forcing him to expand the light display to his backyard in 2003. In 2008, Mayor Don Ness invited Bentley to host his light show in Bayfront Festival Park to help better accommodate the large crowds of people traveling to his home to visit the tour of lights.
As a current nonprofit organization, Bentleyville is overseen by a board of directors that is made up of 14 community members. The light show has received rights from several national companies for displays of popular children’s characters.
“Last year we featured Thomas the Train,” Bentley said. “This year we’ve got new character displays coming. There are lots of changes and improvements being made.”
The famous big red dog that many know from books and television as Clifford will be making his debut this year in light form. Bentley said that in addition to Clifford, there will be more surprise characters that will be featured in the upcoming season's display, along with more light coverage for visitors.
“We’re adding over 500 feet of tunneling, spanning from the Amsoil Arena to the family center,” Bentley said.
On top of the list of changes being made is the renovation of the 128-foot tree that stands out as a landmark for Bentleyville.
“A complete facelift is being done," Bentley said of the featured tree. "It’s getting more colors and more animation added to it."
Bentleyville’s board of directors has made it a priority to try to get the attention of those passing by on I-35. Bentley said that to do this, organizers are decorating Railroad Street with more and more light displays, using the event's annual budget of $435,000.
“I still enjoy talking about the family tradition and seeing the kids waiting for Santa Claus,” Bentley said of the event.
With only 228 days until the switch is flipped on and Bayfront Festival Park lights up again, the team, along with over 600 volunteers, have a lot of work to do. To find out how you can help volunteer at the event, click here.