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Phillips Park lights up for holidays Friday

A vehicle passes colorful display Festival Lights Phillips Park Aurora. This year's lights display opens Friday. | Sun-Times MediFile

A vehicle passes a colorful display at the Festival of Lights in Phillips Park in Aurora. This year's lights display opens on Friday. | Sun-Times Media File

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Aurora Rotary Festival
of Lights

What: Drive-through holiday light show at Phillips Park

Where: Phillips Park on Aurora’s near East Side; entrance on Smith Boulevard

When: Opens Friday; hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through Dec. 26

Cost: Free, but donations accepted

Updated: December 24, 2012 6:27AM

AURORA — The sixth annual Aurora Rotary Festival of Lights will light up Phillips Park beginning on Friday.

The drive-through holiday event at the park on the near East Side lets people view the light displays from their vehicles.

The Festival of Lights will be shining from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through Dec. 26. The lights entrance is on Smith Boulevard.

The free, family friendly event has been expanded this year to include more than one mile of holiday-themed displays, many of which are animated, according to city spokesman Dan Ferrelli.

More than 40,000 lights make up the more than 40 displays and 125 giant snowflakes hang from trees in the park. This is the largest free light show in Northern Illinois, said Rotarian Mary Dougherty.

About 100 snowflake light displays — measuring 4 by 6 feet — were made by a vocational welding class through Lake Land Community College at Sheridan Correctional Center this year. Students in the class fabricated, welded, painted and wired the giant snowflakes.

Dougherty said residents can look forward to several other new displays this year, including a new waving Santa, a second teddy bear snowball fight scene, a colossal cottage and new elves cottages.

“We extended the first tunnel, which is everybody’s favorite,” Dougherty said. Volunteer crews have finished setting up the scenes and electricians will be working lights until Friday afternoon, she said. The display is set up and torn down by dozens of volunteers, many of them Rotarians, over several days.

Most of the displays have also been updated with LED light bulbs making them greener and brighter. The bulbs burn 86 percent less electricity than regular bulbs, Ferrelli said.

Since its initial year, the Aurora Rotary Club has invested more than $250,000 into the animated light displays, according to Dougherty.

Although the event is free, donations are accepted at the end of the route, with the money supporting local charities. More than 45 organizations which address a variety of community needs have benefited from the Festival of Lights since its beginning in 2007.

The festival is staged by the Rotary Club of Aurora in partnership with the city of Aurora.

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