It’s Back and Brighter than Ever

Festival of Lights Returning to Darboy Community Park

by Tim Froberg

The Fox Cities Festival of Lights made its debut in 2019 with an impressive Clark-Griswold-approved display. The global pandemic prevented those lights from shining in 2020, but they will once again illuminate Darboy Community Park.

The elaborate lighting display returns later this month and will be available nightly from Nov. 26 to Dec. 26 from 5-9 p.m.

The Festival of Lights is a walk-through holiday lighting display like those at Green Bay’s Botanical Garden and Oshkosh’s Menominee Park.  Visitors are welcome to stroll through wooded trails and experience the wonder of close to 100,000 twinkling lights along with various Christmas-related structures and figures. 

Festival of Lights is a nonprofit organization made up of local volunteers led by President Shaun Forslund. The group is excited to light up Darboy Community Park again after it reluctantly called off last year’s event. Displays were instead used to decorate the exterior of the group’s title sponsor, Fox Communities Credit Union.

“I think we’ve survived the pandemic,” said Forslund. “We heard a lot of positive comments our first year, so we’re not doing it a whole lot different. We’re going to try and use more food trucks, but for the most part, we’re going with what worked our first year.”

The lighting display is financed by various sponsors led by FCCU and is free to the public. However, donations are appreciated to help defray costs and can be made at boxes placed in different locations throughout the park. 

The display is made possible through the hard work of dedicated volunteers like Forslund, whose group is assisted by other area nonprofit organizations. Donations are split between Forslund’s crew and the other assisting nonprofits. Forslund has enough volunteers to pull off this year’s display, but could always use more. To volunteer, call 920-540-6546 

“It’s a lot of work, but we’re really happy to be back,” said Forslund, who is supported and assisted in the project by his wife, Danielle, and son, Jacob. “It’s a year-round thing. We start building stuff each year around February.  There’s a lot of metal fabrication and welding involved for the wire-frame displays and construction for the wood displays.”

Forslund – a locomotive engineer – is a Village of Harrison resident and wants to make the Festival of Lights a holiday tradition in Appleton. He previously assisted the volunteer crew that puts together the Oshkosh Celebration of Lights at Menominee Park.

“I did my own displays for years and learned a little more on the commercial side from working at the Oshkosh display,” Forslund said.

Parking is available on the east side of the park and at Sunrise Elementary School.