All is merry and bright at Irvine Park Christmas Village

Story by Ellen Mattila, Freelancer

Even though there is no snow on the ground yet, Christmas spirit abounds at the Christmas Village in Chippewa Falls’ Irvine Park.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of this celebration of Christmas and community history. In honor of the 25th anniversary the park plays Christmas music and has introduced a Community Tree.

“Members of the community have paid for ornaments,” said village volunteer, City Council and Park Board Member Jane Lardahl, “to have their family name on the tree, that’s new.”

The Christmas Village is free to the public, but according to Megan Robarge, recreation supervisor for the Chippewa Falls Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, donations are encouraged.

Visitors are treated to traditional Christmas scenes such as Santa and his reindeer and the Nutcracker, as well as scenes that depict the history of Chippewa Falls.  The village has 60,000 lights to illuminate these scenes and dazzle visitors.

“We are in the process now of converting from traditional lights to LEDs,” said Lardahl.

With all of those lights come a lot of electrical cords. According to Robarge, people, especially kids, tripping on the electrical cords is their primary safety concern.

“On high traffic nights,” she said, “we have extra volunteers to deal with this issue.”

Visitors to the Christmas Village may walk or drive around the park. From 5 to 6:30 p.m. the village is limited to foot traffic only. At 7 p.m. the village is open to walkers and car traffic. Since the weather is unseasonably warm many people chose to walk around the village.

“People were being very cautious,” Ashley Hinz, a health care administration major at UW-Eau Claire, said, “and cars were making sure to wait for walkers.”

There is plenty of time left in the semester for students to pay a visit to Irvine Park to bask in some Christmas spirit.

“I believe in the Christmas Village, and I believe in Irvine Park” Lardahl said, “and we need the funds.” The village is open from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, and is open until midnight on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.