When the holidays are upon us and Milwaukee area residents want to see the best lights around, the first thought might be Candy Cane Lane. However, there is an even larger, brighter spectacle to be seen just a few miles away. This year, Caledonia’s Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground presents the fourth annual Carnival of Lights, with a special connection to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Wisconsin’s largest holiday lights display is located just 20 minutes south of Milwaukee and is decorated almost entirely by one family who runs the campgrounds. This year’s fourth annual Carnival of Lights features 1.3 million lights wrapping cabins, buildings, and over 500 trees. Visitors can tune their radios to the synchronized music accompaniment as they drive through a mile of campgrounds covered in lights with varying themes from Candy Cane Lane to the Blue Lagoon.
The Isaacson family were inspired to start the lights show by the memory of two extraordinarily lit houses when they were young. The childhood joy of seeing the decorated houses is one that they wanted to recreate for others on their campgrounds. But unlike similar Jellystone campgrounds across the country, the Caledonia location does not utilize commercial means and instead custom makes each display, brainstorming months in advance. As Bridget Bender, the General Manager of Jellystone Caledonia, puts it, “Everyone has their own really cool unique role of creating.” With the help of three coworkers and a few volunteers, the Isaacson family make their creative dreams a reality as each year delivers a bigger, better show. Bridget says,
We’re always stretching and reaching and trying to top ourselves, so every years there’s new stuff, added stuff, crazy new things. We’re almost pushing our own boundaries, but that’s part of it so it can be as awesome as we can possibly make it.
To make this spectacle possible, the Isaacsons typically work eight hours a day, six or seven days a week. The process begins on October 15 and ends on Black Friday, when the Carnival of Lights is open to the public. The results are astounding, from a light tunnel of 14,000 LED lights to Santa’s Workshop, the 3,700-square-foot main building covered in 31,000 lights synchronized to music.
This year, to make the Carnival of Lights even more in keeping with the holiday season, one dollar from every car will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin. Also, every Monday is “Make-A-Wish Monday”, where admission is reduced to $13 per car with $5 benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
We want everybody to come through here and get that magical experience and have that moment of no shopping, no crazy running around, no Black Friday madness, none of the craziness, and just get to enjoy the Christmas spirit and not even having to say anything while you’re doing it, no family fights in the car, nothing! And so it really fit well with that in the spirit of giving and Christmas and the whole thing and we’re thrilled to be able to donate to them.
The Carnival of Lights is open Sunday-Thursday from 5-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 5-10 p.m. Admission is $15 per car (up to 8 people) and $22 for limos, buses, and large passenger vans. Wisconsin’s largest, most spectacular holiday lights show will continue through Tuesday, January 1, with the exception of Christmas Day. For more information, please visit http://www.wichristmascarnival.com/.