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updated: 11/18/2013 1:21 PM

New light displays make their debut this year in the Western Suburbs

New displays make their debut this year in the Western Suburbs

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  • The Festival of Lights at Aurora's Phillips Park is a drive-through display more than a mile long.

      The Festival of Lights at Aurora's Phillips Park is a drive-through display more than a mile long.
    Courtesy of Rotary Club of Aurora

  • Cosley Zoo's Festival of Lights in Wheaton has welcomed visitors for nearly 30 years and includes many illuminated animal figures.

      Cosley Zoo's Festival of Lights in Wheaton has welcomed visitors for nearly 30 years and includes many illuminated animal figures.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Morton Arboretum's new "Illumination" uses state-of-the art technology to create experiences such as singing to trees to make them change color.

      Morton Arboretum's new "Illumination" uses state-of-the art technology to create experiences such as singing to trees to make them change color.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • The new Naper Lights in Naperville's Central Park include three, large animated displays, including Santa and his reindeer.

      The new Naper Lights in Naperville's Central Park include three, large animated displays, including Santa and his reindeer.
    Courtesy of Naperville Sunrise Rotary

  • Oakbrook Center holds a Holiday Spectacular on Nov. 22 to celebrate the completion of a two-year renovation project. The event includes an Illuminated Lantern Night Processional accompanied by jingling "Bell and Antler" reindeer characters, and the opportunity to have a photo taken with a live reindeer.

      Oakbrook Center holds a Holiday Spectacular on Nov. 22 to celebrate the completion of a two-year renovation project. The event includes an Illuminated Lantern Night Processional accompanied by jingling "Bell and Antler" reindeer characters, and the opportunity to have a photo taken with a live reindeer.
    Courtesy of Oakbrook Center

 
 

Twinkling lights and holidays go hand-in-hand. In the dark cold of winter, would holidays be holidays without their color and their cheer?

Several speculator new displays make their debut in the region this year and favorites continue to expand and improve.

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle promises a show such as visitors have never seen when it opens "Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum" on Friday, Nov. 22. Visitors will experience dazzling displays during a 1-mile walk along a paved trail that will let them hug a tree and make it grow brighter, sing to a tree and watch it change color, and create their own light show.

The experience uses cutting-edge light technology to let visitors see trees in a new way, said Anamari Dorgan, the arboretum's director of education.

"This is definitely not your grandmother's light experience," Dorgan said. "You will find surprises of light at every turn around the path."

The Morton Arboretum is not the only place dazzling this year. Oakbrook Center is putting on a "Holiday Spectacular" to celebrate the completion of its two-year renovation project. The event from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, includes theatrical characters, an Illuminated Lantern Night Processional, a "Fire Organ" that releases flames 15 feet high and a pyrotechnics show. The processional starts in the newly opened Village Green lawn area and proceeds around the Vortex Fountain to the new Glass Pavilion, where Santa Claus will hold court.

"We're really looking forward to this event. We're very excited to showcase our new atmosphere," said Suzanne Cook-Beres, senior marketing manager for Oakbrook Center.

Following suit of what other Rotary clubs have done, the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise is putting on its own light display this year in Naperville's Central Park. John Colucci, co-chairman of Naper Lights, said the walk-through show will include three large animated light displays; decorated light poles and trees; and a lighted, arched entry way. Colucci said he got the idea for the light display after visiting Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo last year.

"I was thinking, 'Why can't we do this in Naperville?'" he said. "Hopefully, we can grow it and every year add more displays."

The Rotary Club of Aurora began its Festival of Lights in Phillips Park seven years ago and it's double the size it was then, said Mary Dougherty, festival manager. This year's drive-through exhibit of more than a mile includes five new displays, including 50 new lighted holiday trees. The light festival is free, but donations are accepted. The festival has brought in more than $150,000 in donations over the past six years to benefit charities the Rotary supports, Dougherty said.

"This event is our gift to the community. We are so pleased to see how it has grown over the past seven years," she said.

Cosley Zoo in Wheaton doesn't have much room to expand on the Festival of Lights it began in 1984, but is gradually switching over to LED lights, said Susan Wahlgren, zoo director. The fanciful light displays, Christmas tree sales and live trees decorated by local organizations make the zoo a place where the holiday spirit glows.

"It really makes a great destination and a great place to be for the holidays," Wahlgren said.

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