Christmas light extravaganza to shine in Calhoun
MONROE, La. (AP) — Prepping for the launch of a mile-long Christmas light tour requires a checklist of a similar length.
With two weeks until Candy Cane Lane in Calhoun opens to visitors, Amy and Ben Hanson are putting the finishing touches on the drive-through light park.
For the couple, the park is the culmination of a long-term plan, but the final push to Thanksgiving launch is still equal parts stress and excitement. Strands of lights need to be strung to mark the road, and a speaker system is being installed to pipe music through the entire park.
These are some of the final details for the park, a holiday vision the Hansons have shared for years.
“I grew up originally over in east Texas,” Ben Hanson said. “And there are several of them (Christmas light parks) around the Tyler area, and I took my two older kids back when they were little to the ones there in east Texas. ... It’s always been in the back of my mind that I would like to try it, and we kind of got in the position where we could.”
The park boasts over one million Christmas lights. They are looped around trees, strung on displays of popular cartoon and Christmas figures and formed into two light tunnels stretching over 100 feet each.
Different zones of the drive feature themes ranging from Winter Wonderland to Louisiana and Mardi Gras while a wall of thousands of blue lights follows light string accents of red, white and blue.
The mile long road starts off of Louisiana 151 North in Calhoun and winds through a wooded area on the Hanson’s property, a parcel along Interstate 20 purchased for its Christmas light park potential but also ideal for the family’s home.
“Once we figured out we had the property and could make it happen, we actually went and bought lights between Christmas and New Year this past year,” Ben said. “That is when we bought our first lights. We spent a solid week plus buying from Dallas to Jackson — department stores, hardware, home improvement stores.”
The couple estimates they have over $65,000 invested in lights, including the displays featuring lights.
For the past ten years, Ben has worked pipeline, but he came home to Calhoun in March to develop Candy Cane Lane.
Since the spring, trees were cleared on the property, a mile of road constructed and the necessary electrical components installed.
Ben and his 17-year-old son Tommy dug the necessary trenches and later buried over one mile of electrical conduit in preparation for the connection of meters and transformers by Entergy. On Aug. 3, the first strands went up.
It takes fifteen 200-amp meters and five transformers to power the park...and a lot of troubleshooting.
“Christmas explodes in my living room every now and then,” Amy said. “And every few days they are bringing in boxes and boxes of Christmas lights, and I sit there and test all of the lights.”
As the park has prepared for its debut, Amy has worked the phones and social media in an effort to get the word out about opening day.
In future years, the couple plans to expand offerings to include more lights and more activities for families, including food vendors and pictures with Santa.
“We are hoping it will become a family tradition every year,” Ben said. “Growing up, that’s the way the one in Tyler was. It was a thing to go at least one, two or twelve nights.”
Candy Cane Lane will join the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights along Interstates 20 and 49 this year alongside other Monroe-West Monroe holiday events and destinations like the Freedom Trees at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, Santa’s Christmas Village at the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum, Christmas at the Biedenharn and the Champagne Stroll on Antique Alley in West Monroe.
The park opens on Thanksgiving and will be open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday each weekend through Dec. 21. From Dec. 21 to Jan. 1 the park will be open every night. To stay up to date on any changes, follow Candy Cane Lane on Facebook.
A drive through the park costs $20 for a family vehicle and $40 for a commercial vehicle. No trailers are allowed, and the park is cash only.
Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com