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Christmas lights ... east or west?

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By Rog Patterson

The best known and most expensive Christmas lights are about 20 miles east of our 200 Corridor – as Roger’s reindeer flies. A slightly longer drive is a bigger and less crowded option …  including a visit from Santa Claus …  only a few miles further to the west of us. Just drive east on C.R. 484 to Dunnellon, hang a right at the light onto U.S. 41 and you’ll see Rainbow Springs State Park just a few miles north on your right.

Did you know Rainbow Springs State Park has put up a wonderful display of Christmas lights all along much of its many trails and walkways since the late 1990s? Even the waterfall is beautifully lit.

A volunteer crew, sponsored by Friends of Rainbow Springs, begins hanging thousands of lights and preparing other decorations in mid-October and work until they wrap up the project in early December. Actually, some of their work goes on pretty much year ‘round, as they replace burned out bulbs and touch up this and that, here and there.

Christmas lights will be turned on at dusk for you, your children or grandchildren to enjoy until 8:30 p.m., during two long weekends this year. Dec. 12, 13, 14 and again on Dec. 19, 20 and 21 will find Santa arriving about 7:30 each evening. The lights will be turned on Dec. 26 and 27, after Santa has managed to navigate his tired reindeer back to the North Pole. Need more information, call 465-8555.

And a variety of entertainment is waiting for you. Singers, storytellers and other fascinating folks will all be there. Perhaps the highlight of your evening will be seeing Santa Claus ferried across the springs to greet awaiting kiddies – young and old.

Santa has a candy cane for each child who visits him and parents are encouraged to take photos. There’s also a Rainbow Springs photographer snapping away. So even if you forgot to bring a camera, you can purchase a print of your kids or grandchildren with Santa right on the spot.

Unless you find something irresistible to nibble or sip at the refreshment counter, the price of this wonderful evening could be the $1 park entry fee. Once you’ve experienced the Christmas lights at Rainbow Springs State Park, I think you’ll make it an annual family event.

(Okay, our stretch of the 200 Corridor, from I-75 to C.R. 484, must be at about 10 miles long. So there’s a lot of Kentucky windage in how far something I write about being “so far from S.R. 200” might be to your house. I park my reindeer near Queen of Peace Catholic Church, or at the nearby intersection of S.W. 60th Avenue (aka Airport Road) and State Road 200.)

Rog Patterson is a Marion Landing resident and Friendship Kiwanis Club member.