Fantasy of Lights kickstarts holiday cheer

Suzanne Shipley, university president, addresses guests during the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Nov. 20. Photo by Francisco Martinez

As part of the celebration and to help raise funds for the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights, the 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run will take place this Saturday, Dec. 2 at 9 a.m., starting at the pavilion near Sikes Lake and Wichita Falls Museum of Art.

“The MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights is solely supported through donations so this was an opportunity so employers or other organizations could be a sponsor of a race,” Dirk Welch, director of the career management center, said. “That money certainly aids in the refurbishment and the upkeep, keeping the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights a longstanding tradition. The proceeds in the registration of the event also goes to support the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights.”

An event that was established four years ago, the 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run originally stuck to just a 5K. However, two years ago, organizers included a one mile route to appeal to a wider range of community members.

Other changes to the race include the date and time of the race. In the past years, the race was scheduled around mid-December. To get more students involved in the race, organizers moved it to early December while students are still present on campus.

Other competitive opportunities will be available for those in attendance such as a Christmas-themed costume contest for the runners.

“On race day, there is a lot of fulfillment in that it has all come together. We have got racers out here, families participating together. A competitive spirit may not just be those that want to finish faster or first in the race, but also we have things such as ‘Best Holiday-Themed Male participant’ and ‘Best Holiday-Themed Female participant.’ If you have a competitive nature, you might want to get involved in that type of thing.”

The Wellness Center staff, University Programming Board members, and the Wichita Falls Museum of Art staff will also be hosting a canned-food and toy drive at the race. There will be an area dedicated to donating toys and canned goods that will be given to support those in need in Wichita Falls.

Runners in the race will also have photo opportunities with the “Character Village” decorations taken directly from the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights and the North Pole’s very own Santa Claus.

Welch urged members of the MSU and Wichita Falls communities to participate in the race to support the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights.

“It is quite an undertaking, but it is very critical to keeping the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights a reality and long-standing tradition,” Welch said.

In addition to the Fun Run this Saturday, the Redwine Carillon Bell performed Christmas songs on Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m. to a crowd of about 500 members from the Wichita Falls and MSU communities to kick off the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceremony. Suzanne Shipley, university president, welcomed those in attendance and turned on the lights, making campus glow with holiday cheer.

Christmas festivities were in the air as students, children, parents and food trucks all gathered at the front of the Hardin Administration Building.

“[I enjoy] the festive community spirit. This is an attraction that is fairly unique; you don’t see stuff like this on a lot of campuses. And it brings a lot of people through our campus so it gives a lot of good exposure to the school, but I like this. Just look at the community out here on our campus. You’ve got people of all ages, all backgrounds that enjoying themselves. You’ve got the ambiance of the music. You’ve got food trucks for crying out loud. That’s what I like about it,” Keith Lamb, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, said.

Fantasy of Lights is a tradition that started more than 90 years ago when the Burns family originally decorated the front yard of their home. They now donate their displays to MSU to continue the tradition. Dirk Welch, director of the career management center, was put in charge of the event in late 2016.

“From beginning to end, we estimate over 2,000 hours go into bringing this all to life. It starts Jan. 1 up into the new year through refurbishment, painting, work days so some of those 2,000 hours are certainly due to the volunteers that come out on work day and help throughout,” Welch said.

The estimated number of lights on the campus buildings comes to around 30,000, according to Welch.

Shipley said her favorite part is seeing how the children react to the event.

“I just love it when get to have them [children]. I like the belief. You know that they still believe in Christmas and to get to ask them to bring Santa out and to see their excitement. It’s wonderful that we can make an impact on the community in this way because it is all about all ages. There are some future Midwestern students right there, we hope,” Shipley said.

Attendee comments

“I have been coming here for about as long as it has been displayed. It is exciting and I am glad they keep the tradition for the kids. It is an important and magical time for them.” | Carmen Cain, database administrator

“I have been going to the Fantasy of Lights almost my whole life and my favorite display is the robot that blows bubbles.” | Rene Falnes, Wichita Falls resident

“I came because I heard it was the best thing MSU does. I just enjoyed seeing all the people from Wichita Falls come to MSU campus and enjoy it.” | Rachael Stagner, radiology sophomore

“I saw it on Twitter and I thought it would be a beautiful thing to come and see. I thought it was beautiful. I really enjoyed the Toy Story exhibit. I thought it was super cute.” | Destiny Hurd, special needs education freshman

“I come every year and by every year I mean since my freshman year so its kinda a little tradition. This year I enjoyed seeing the new scenes. I liked the ‘Merry Christmas to All’ sign because that was the only one I knew for sure that was new. It was very vintage and cool in that it was new, yet old.” | Laramie Walton, Spanish and political science junior

“I grew up here in town so I’ve been going here every year. I actually just got done with some work at the library so I just figured I might as well just walk over and check it out. I think the bubble robots are always a crowd pleaser, I just like bubbles. It’s just a nostalgia thing, I mean I came here, I grew up coming here, my grandpa used to be the Santa Claus so I’ve just grown up coming out here.” | Evan Jackson, computer science sophomore

“It’s pretty great. I love the lights, it’s really Christmas-y — I love it. The thing that this reminds me of when my family would drive through the rich people neighborhoods to look at all the lights they put up. My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating the house together because we make a day out of it and play music. I miss moments like that when I’m here.” | Lia Wiley, radiology sophomore

“The food trucks really added to the experience of going and looking at the displays. I definitely think there should be a designated night each week when the trucks could come besides just the opening. The displays were really cool to see, some just a little dated but overall they were well put together. There’s lots of family and it’s a great place to bring your kids and dogs to walk around. The Toy Story display was my favorite because that was my favorite movie as a kid.” | Beth Townsend, nursing junior

“I’ve been here long enough that I actually went when it was at Mrs. Burns’ house. I didn’t know Mrs. Burns, but knew of her, every Christmas what they would do…the majority of these displays were in her yard…I like the older displays, the robot that does the bubbles, and the merry go round.” | Mary Albertson, alumni and current student

“I’ve been coming since freshman year since we started here. My favorite part is just coming out here and seeing the attractions. A lot of them are, I guess you can call them, ‘old time favorites.'” | Treston Lacy, mass communication senior

My grandparents started this in 1916 when they were first married, and they put a little Christmas tree on their front porch with blue candles on it. In 1929, they built their home on Harrison Boulevard and my grandparents started putting a display out on the lawn every year and neighbors thought it was so festive and fun. They just added to it every year and it started the tradition.” | Becky Burns, Burns’ family granddaughter

Additional reporting by Kara McIntyre, Chloe Phillips, Stephen Gomez, Alex Rios and Makayla Scheck.

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2017 Fantasy of Lights

Suzanne Shipley, university president, address the guest during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Suzanne Shipley, university president, address the guest during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Santa, Woodrow Gossom County Judge, and Bill Thacker at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Santa, Woodrow Gossom County Judge, and Bill Thacker at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Santa Clause comes out to greet the kids at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Santa Clause comes out to greet the kids at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Adilai McCurley, attendee, sits on Santa Claus' lap who was played by Woodrow Gossom Jr., Wichita Falls County Judge, who was playing Santa, during the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Ceremony. "[Adilai] is from Lake Dallas, and they were so excited to be here. This was our first time going and we will definitely have to come back again," Kristi Whyrick, Adilai's grandmother, said. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Adilai McCurley, attendee, sits on Santa Claus' lap who was played by Woodrow Gossom Jr., Wichita Falls County Judge, who was playing Santa, during the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Ceremony. "[Adilai] is from Lake Dallas, and they were so excited to be here. This was our first time going and we will definitely have to come back again," Kristi Whyrick, Adilai's grandmother, said. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Mark Robinson and Jessica Hulett, mass communication and theater secratery, look at the attractions at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Mark Robinson and Jessica Hulett, mass communication and theater secratery, look at the attractions at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Michelle Chavez, music secretary, poses at the Holiday in the Falls picture frame at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Michelle Chavez, music secretary, poses at the Holiday in the Falls picture frame at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Norma Ramirez, assistant director of residence life, and Patricia Ramirez, bilingual education , at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Norma Ramirez, assistant director of residence life, and Patricia Ramirez, bilingual education , at the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights on the front lawn of the Hardin Building on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Justin Marquart
Kids shout Santa Cluase's name until he comes out at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Kids shout Santa Cluase's name until he comes out at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
The Hardin building lights up as the kids gather to sit on Santa's lap at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
The Hardin building lights up as the kids gather to sit on Santa's lap at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Paul and Blake Benson and their children, Simon Nora and Hugh attend their first year at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Paul and Blake Benson and their children, Simon Nora and Hugh attend their first year at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Lucretia Taylor, MSU alumni, Hannah Taylor, accounting grad student attend their twentieth year at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Lucretia Taylor, MSU alumni, Hannah Taylor, accounting grad student attend their twentieth year at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Anthony and Stephanie Patterson and their son Elijah attend their second year at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Anthony and Stephanie Patterson and their son Elijah attend their second year at the MSU- Burns Fantasy of Lights in the front lawn of the Hardin building on Nov. 20, 2017. photo by Shea James
Attendees walk around looking at the displays during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Attendees walk around looking at the displays during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Attendees walk around looking at the displays during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Attendees walk around looking at the displays during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Attendees walk around looking at the displays during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Attendees walk around looking at the displays during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Carina Peterson, radiology sophomore, takes pictures of the different lights and scenes set up at the opening ceremony of MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. "I was walking around [campus] earlier and I thought it would be really nice to see this and I'm also here to see the Wind Ensemble," Peterson said. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Carina Peterson, radiology sophomore, takes pictures of the different lights and scenes set up at the opening ceremony of MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. "I was walking around [campus] earlier and I thought it would be really nice to see this and I'm also here to see the Wind Ensemble," Peterson said. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Destiny Herd, special needs education freshman, and Rachael Stagner, radiology freshman, get their picture taken infront of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights infront of the Hardin Building On Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Destiny Herd, special needs education freshman, and Rachael Stagner, radiology freshman, get their picture taken infront of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights infront of the Hardin Building On Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Ben Franklin Elementry Choir preforms during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Ben Franklin Elementry Choir preforms during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Ben Franklin Elementry Choir preforms during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
Ben Franklin Elementry Choir preforms during the MSU Burns Fantasy of Lights Opening Night at Akin Auditorium, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Francisco Martinez
The Wind Ensemble performs a varety of Christmas songs at the end of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceromony in Akin Auditorium Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
The Wind Ensemble performs a varety of Christmas songs at the end of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceromony in Akin Auditorium Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
The Wind Ensemble performs a varety of Christmas songs at the end of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceromony in Akin Auditorium Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
The Wind Ensemble performs a varety of Christmas songs at the end of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceromony in Akin Auditorium Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Matthew Luttrell, associate music professor, conducts the MSU Wind Ensemble during the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceremony in the Akin Auditroium, Monday Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Matthew Luttrell, associate music professor, conducts the MSU Wind Ensemble during the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceremony in the Akin Auditroium, Monday Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Matthew Luttrell, associate music professor, talks about upcoming music events after the Wind Ensemble performance of Christmas songs at MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceremony in the Akin Auditroium, Monday Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Matthew Luttrell, associate music professor, talks about upcoming music events after the Wind Ensemble performance of Christmas songs at MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights opening ceremony in the Akin Auditroium, Monday Nov. 20, 2017. Photo by Rachel Johnson