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Fantasy Of Lights Gives Back

Blue Jacket’s Fantasy of Lights attendance dwarfed that of 2022, with nearly 30,000 vehicles driving through the light event, which provided both in- and out-of-car activities. Blue Jacket also donated back to the community $43,226 in free and discounted entries to continue the “pay it forward” theme enhanced during the pandemic. This year’s light show included over 1.5 million LED lights in 550 display pieces that made up 166 scenes in the nearly two-mile route in Franke Park.

Blue Jacket Inc. will use proceeds from the event to fund its mission to offer pre-employment training, career services, and hiring clients of Blue Jacket Inc. This year, over 40 people were hired to setup, host, and tear down the light event, many of them Blue Jacket clients.

For the seventh year in a row, a small vendor market, free cocoa, and free photos with Santa were available in “Santa’s Christmas Village.” The Village had record attendance with nearly 50,000 visitors.

Big displays on exhibit, like an oversized Christmas present and “2023,” provided photo opportunities for patrons and the warmer weather further encouraged patrons to exit their vehicles. Organizers conclude the $15 entry fee, the size of the display, the walking market and free visit with Santa, make it one of the largest nonprofit light events for its value in the entire country.

During the pandemic, Blue Jacket began to offer theme nights, celebrating certain professions and groups, and continued this practice in 2023. Leaders offered free entry to people in the military, first responders, nursing homes, and teachers but also brought back festive evenings like ‘Decorate Your Car,’ ‘4-Legged (Pet)’ and ’Pay What You Want’ nights. Attendance for these free events more than doubled expectations, with 1,714 vehicles attending for free. Blue Jacket also pre-sells tickets to companies or individuals wanting to purchase car passes in bulk at a discounted rate.

“We are grateful for our longstanding and new sponsors that entrench this as a true community event. It is nothing short of amazing that 185 local companies and families support this event. In gratitude, we work hard to make things better every year,” said Tony Hudson, Blue Jacket’s executive director, “and this is all leading up to our 30th anniversary season in grand fashion.”

Before the grand opening, Blue Jacket supported walkers and runners with their annual partnership with Fort4Fitness and their hosted Winter Wonder Dash. Later, Blue Jacket supported bikers in partnership with 3Rivers Velo Sports coordinating bicyclists with a Blue Jacket-funded police escort.

Planning has already begun with a new, expanded route inside the Franke Park Renaissance for the 30th anniversary of the Fantasy of Lights, and 10th year of operation by Blue Jacket, Inc. Organizers will announce a new route and fun new anniversary surprises in late summer.

Blue Jacket’s mission is to provide training and opportunities to anyone with a barrier who is striving to earn gainful employment. The organization, which opened its doors in 2005, envisions that anyone with a barrier to employment will be restored with hope and provided capacity to obtain and retain employment because of Blue Jacket’s vast network and resources of support.

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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