Irritation festers as I am faced with Christmas holiday decorations before Halloween is even over. I make one exception to these premature December holiday signs that I otherwise despise . . . Bentleyville. In order to bring life to this annual magical tour of lights in Duluth, Minnesota, teams of volunteers must start constructing the scenes and stringing the lights while the leaves are still on the trees.
[photos and video from the 2011 Bentleyville Tour of Lights]
Most years, our family has made Bentleyville part of our annual Christmas Eve tradition. Santa Claus patiently sits at Bentleyville every night through December 23, but on Christmas Eve, he already has taken off for the North Pole to finish loading his sleigh for the night’s ride, leaving Mrs. Claus at Bentleyville to visit with good girls and boys (or those who still hope to redeem themselves before the night is over).
This amazing light show is free to the public, with goodwill offering containers scattered throughout the site, and a list of generous sponsors who help make it possible every year. The original generous sponsor, though, is Nathan Bentley himself – the founder and Bentleyville’s namesake. The full history of Bentleyville is detailed on its website, starting with a modest display in Nathan Bentley’s residential yard, growing to overtake his property and require shuttle buses and volunteers to direct traffic, and ultimately outgrowing Nathan Bentley’s home, turning into a joyous community event, open and accessible to all.
With Duluth’s illuminated Aerial Lift Bridge in the background, thousands of people from all over the state and beyond enjoy Bentleyville’s light and music show, cookies and roasted marshmallows, hot cider and coffee. That sense of community and holiday feelings of good cheer overwhelm you as you walk through tunnels of light and listen to the excited voices of children (as well as the voices of those adults rediscovering that unique Christmas spirit) – something about Bentleyville lets us all soak up that holiday magic about which songs are written.
So, forgive me for adding to the premature Christmas displays, but perhaps you also will agree that Bentleyville may be an exception, as it certainly is exceptional?
If you happen to find reason to swing by Duluth, Minnesota this holiday season, be sure to put a walk through Bentleyville on your list of things to do while visiting. If you are not able to enjoy this show in person, enjoy this small taste of the magic of Bentleyville from last year’s display:
Bentleyville opens for the 2012 holiday season on November 17th, and will be open daily through December 26th. Details regarding hours, parking, driving directions and more can be found on Bentleyville’s website.
Ciao! ~ Kat