| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – With most annual events cancelled because of the pandemic, Bright Night at Forest Park is standing alone in offering essentially the annual event with some alternations.
Judy Matt, president of the Spirit of Springfield, announced at a press conference on Nov.12 the 2020 edition will be without the on-site gift store, photos with Santa, the refreshment stand and rides.
The display of holiday lights will open Nov. 25 and stay open through Jan. 6, 2021 – three more days than the traditional schedule.
Mayor Domenic Sarno, wearing a necklace of blinking Christmas lights – “I’m all lit up but in a good way”– called Bright Nights “a morale boost we need more than ever.”
Matt said the display will be open from 4:45 until 8:45 p.m., which would give both patrons and workers the time to clear the park before the state-mandated curfew of 9:30 p.m.
She explained tickets to the display will not be sold at the park’s gate, but rather online at www.brightnights.org.
The gift shop will be relocated to the Springfield Visitors center on Main Street, she added. It will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., and closed holidays. Bright Nights Loyalty card members will receive a 25 percent discount on Bright Nights merchandise.
Santa may not be hearing Christmas wishes as he has in the past at Bright Nights, but Matt explained he will be seen Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 8 p.m. at the front gate.
Admission is $23 per car. Discounted tickets sold at Big Y World Class Markets are $16.50 each.
Discounted admission will be available on opening night when prices are rolled back to 1995, the first season; on Nov. 25 it will be $6 per car. On Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, admission will be $10 per car. Discounted tickets will only be accepted on the designated nights and will be available in limited quantities because the gates will not be opened beyond 8:45 p.m.
Frontline workers will be given complimentary admission to Bright Nights on Nov. 30, a night traditionally reserved for the Bright Nights 5K Road Race. These include, but are not limited to, bus drivers, childcare, delivery services, healthcare, maintenance, pharmacy, postal carriers, public works, grocery store and transportation.
Bright Nights at Forest Park will present a special night on Dec. 2, for military and emergency responders. Active military, law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and their families will be given free admission thanks to the support of the NiSource Charitable Foundation.