During a record turnout in its 10th year last Christmas season, Lights on the Lake turned out to be too much of a good thing for Heartspring’s residents and staff, and the lights display will be moving downtown to the WaterWalk this year to avoid congestion.
More than 10,000 vehicles traveled through the lights display in northeast Wichita last year, which was wonderful for the center that helps special-needs children. But the kids who live there and the people who work there had problems getting through the crowds, Dusty Buell, Heartspring’s director of marketing, said Friday.
So this year the displays will be moved downtown for what will be called Lights at WaterWalk. Because of the different layout downtown, Heartspring will not collect donations there, and the event will be a thank-you to the community instead of a fundraiser, Buell said. It will be nightly from Nov. 28 through Dec. 25, from sundown to 10 p.m.
“I think … a more centralized location will allow more people to enjoy it,” Buell said, adding that people will be able to take in Lights at WaterWalk along with Illuminations at nearby Botanica and Lights on St. Paul in one night.
WaterWalk’s sidewalks also will mean that people will be able to walk as well as drive through the lights display, Buell said. WaterWalk also has its own displays, so there will be more lights overall, he said. The entry will be on South Water Street from Waterman to Dewey.
Last year’s record numbers at Lights on the Lake at Heartspring’s campus at 8700 E. 29th St. North came even though the event ended five days early, because frigid weather and a persistent mist froze up the lights, Buell said.
“We literally had cars lined up to Rock Road and Webb Road. We’ve never seen that kind of support. As much as we thank the community … we’re struggling with it,” Buell said, adding that kids might be stuck 30 to 45 minutes in a van trying to get back to Heartspring during Lights on the Lake. Fifty-four children live there. “Getting our kids in and out of our campus is our No. 1 priority.”
The turnout showed that “people want to support these kids,” Buell said. And so Heartspring will be looking at a new way to raise funds in 2015, he said.
“Some big changes are ahead. It’ll be something new and different that our community needs and wants and doesn’t have yet.”
In addition, Heartspring will team up with KWCH to bring back a Christmas parade downtown, Buell said. It will be at 1 p.m. Dec. 6 and wind from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to WaterWalk, where people can take their own photos with Santa. Free hay wagon rides also will be available. For more information, go to www.lightsatwaterwalk.com.