Fantasy of Lights comes to life for 40-year anniversary

Courtney Gilder

Some 20,000 lights line the Hardin Administration Building, Moffett Library, Bolin Science Hall, Central Plant and D.L Ligon year-round in anticipation of the annual “MSU Burns: Fantasy of Lights,” while the front lawn of Hardin is host to the 36 lighted and animated scenes that make the display one of the city’s most popular holiday traditions.

“I grew up in the area and remember as a child getting to go to Mr. & Mrs. Burns home on Clarinda Drive and see the lights,” said Chief of Campus Police Dan Williams. “My parents knew one of the electricians that originally worked on the Burns Display. He would always allow my parents to put me, my sister and my brother into Santa’s House and take pictures with Santa rocking and soaking his feet.”

The Fantasy of Lights dream became a reality in 1974 after Archer City offered the display to Midwestern State. The display had been in storage for three years after Mrs. Burns passed away. The Fantasy of Lights Committee was created in 1974 to restore the display and is still working today.

“Most of the people on the committee have been involved for years,” said Joey Greenwood, director of recreational sports and the wellness center and coordinator of summer camps and conferences.

The Fantasy of Lights Committee is comprised of university officials, such as Williams and Greenwood, and community members. Greenwood said each member of the committee knows about all aspects from operations to maintaining displays, and they make decisions on things that need to be improved and coordinate donations.

“We want the kids and families to come out enjoy the light display and walk away feeling better about the spirit of Christmas,” said Dan Williams, chief of campus police.”


  • Hardin Bell Tower Holiday Jingles by Jim Quashnock at 5:30 p.m.
  • Opening ceremony—6 p.m., Nov. 24.
  • Wichita Falls ISD Ben Franklin Elementary School Choir at 6:30 p.m.
  • Intermezzo Choir and MSU Wind Ensemble in Akin Auditorium at 7 p.m.


Part of the donation coordination comes from the 32 adoptees that “adopt” a display at the Fantasy of Lights to help maintain each year.

“The displays sit out there in the weather for a little over a month. Things tend to crack or materials get wet,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said when the display has to undergo major repairs they go to adoptees and explain what needs to be done and ask for an extra adoption fee for that particular year, since MSU provides no money directly for the displays.

For the 40-year anniversary, Greenwood said the committee asked the adoptees of Flipper, Dumbo and the Skaters Table displays to provide extra funds to completely refurbish those displays with new materials and paint jobs.

The adoptees range from the Burns family to local business such as First Bank and the Times Record News. The adoptees pay a set rate each year that ranges from $500 to $2,000 to support the display. The larger the display, the higher the rate charged to the adoptee.

5K Run

Each year the committee adds a new piece to the display. Last year they added the Carousel and Toys’ Christmas. This year they added the Fantasy of Lights 5K to be held Dec. 20.

“We have some students that have signed up, but it’s not geared directly towards the students,” Greenwood said. “This has been a part of the Wichita Falls community for a number of years and it is geared towards the community”

The 5K will start at the grounds of the Fantasy of Lights. They will run by the grounds and have a rest stop at the former home of Mr. and Mrs. Burns. There will be tables set up in the driveway that will have hot chocolate and candy canes. Then the race will conclude back at the grounds of Fantasy of Lights.

“The committee contacted the current owners, and they were more than excited to allow us to set up tables in the driveway,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said this year they got sponsors for the T-shirts that will be given out for the 5K.