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Willmar Fests to take over Christmas light show from Koosmans

Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo Chad Koosman programs the lights to change with music for the "Celebrate the Light of the World" festival.1 / 4
Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo More than 600,000 light bulbs make the “Celebrate the Light of the World” show so bright. The light and music show ends its 10-year run this Sunday at the Chad and Angela Koosman home. Willmar Fests will take over ownership and operation of the annual holiday event.2 / 4
Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo In this November file photo, Chad Koosman, right, with help from Dan Graves programs the lights to change with the music for this season's “Celebrate the Light of the World” show in rural Willmar. Sunday is the last day of the show at the Chad and Angela Koosman home, and Willmar Fests will take over ownership and operation of the annual holiday event.3 / 4
Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo Christmas lights are tested Nov. 13 in preparation for the “Celebrate the Light of the World” show at the Koosman home in rural Willmar. This year is the last year of the show there, and Willmar Fests will take it over. Sunday is the last day to view the lights.4 / 4

WILLMAR — After the popular "Celebrate the Light of the World" Christmas light and music show ends its 10-year run this Sunday at the Chad and Angela Koosman home, the miles of colorful lights and all of the equipment from the massive display will be taken down, given to a Willmar community organization and moved to a new location for what could be an even bigger show next year.

On Tuesday it was announced that Willmar Fests will take over ownership and operation of the annual holiday event, which was started by the Koosman family in 2008 at their rural Willmar home as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

The family decided this was the last year they would put on the show and began looking for a local group to take it over.

"It's an amazing opportunity," said James Miller, a board member with Willmar Fests.

A special committee will be formed to start planning details for running the show, including finding a new location.

Robbins Island Park is the first choice, but Miller said details such as power sources, infrastructure and traffic flow have to be analyzed. Other potential sites include land near Taunton Stadium or the MinnWest Technology Campus.

"We'll keep looking until we find the right location," Miller said.

Chad Koosman said he is "super excited" about handing off the torch to Willmar Fests and is eager to see how a community-wide group of volunteers can take the show to a new level at a new location.

"I have a good feeling they are definitely the right organization to take it over and carry on what Angela and I have started," he said. "I feel they can expand upon what has been started and make it bigger and better."

The Koosmans have invested thousands of hours and untold personal expenses to set up and run the show during the last decade. They have their home up for sale and intend to move, which triggered their efforts to find a community partner so that the show could go on.

The Koosmans will help Willmar Fests make a smooth transition with the show, which will keep the name "Celebrate the Light of the World" and will continue to serve as a fundraiser, although recipients may expand beyond Salvation Army as the event evolves, Miller said.

Besides giving them all the equipment, Chad Koosman will help Willmar Fests oversee the show for four years until volunteers get their legs under them. He will also donate labor from his business, Turbo Turf, for the first year's installation.

The transition will be bittersweet.

"I'm excited to not have to put up the display, but I'm going to totally miss the traffic and meeting the people coming through the driveway to look at the lights," he said.

"I will miss the stories and amazing people we have met," said Angela Koosman, who gives the community credit for raising money for the Salvation Army.

"We just put up the lights. That doesn't raise any money," she said. "It's the community that gives back to the rest of the community."

From the start of the display in 2008 through the 2016 season, the Koosmans had raised $654,000 for the Salvation Army through donations collected at the display. There is no charge to view the lights.

So far this season, about $151,000 has been donated to the Salvation Army from the light show.

The Koosmans are hoping to reach a goal of $164,000 by Sunday.

"Chad and I want to thank the community for their support for the last 10 years," said Angela Koosman. "There's so much joy in seeing this continue on."

And there is still a need this final week for Salvation Army bell ringers from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. every night through Sunday. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Chad at 320-295-1411.

Miller said it will take many volunteers to plan and run the show each year.

Anyone interested in getting involved on the ground floor of the project can contact Miller at 320-212-2184 or via email at info@willmarfests.com.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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