MATTOON — Peterson Park is prepped to shine a light throughout the holiday season as the annual Lightworks display opens tonight.

“It’s really bigger and better this year than it’s ever been,” tourism director Angelia Burgett said. “New sponsors; new lights; new displays — there’s just a real upgrade this year.”

The Mattoon Lightworks display opens at 5 tonight and will stay lit until 10 p.m. The season hours will be 5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, then 5-9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays through the month December.

On Fridays throughout December, churches will volunteer to fill the live nativity scene, as well.

“People are just going to be really thrilled,” Burgett said about this year’s display. “There’s a real emotional attachment for the people who come to Lightworks.”

Burgett said the sponsors and volunteers have sincere appreciation for the display, and this year they’ve added a small touch she’s hopeful will catch on for others.

“We have someone who wanted to give to honor their mother who passed,” she said. “So there is going to be a special area — and I suspect this will be something other people will want to join in too — just to honor people that really treasured Lightworks.”

The special display will be located at the end of the drive.

“It will be very tasteful and beautiful, and it’s just to honor those people,” she added.

Of course, it’s too late to add to this year’s display, but those who wish to honor others in later displays are welcome to contact the tourism office.

“I think that’s special, and it shows what Lightworks means to people,” Burgett said. “It brings the importance of it for the community. It’s just a lot of positive things happening there; it’s just very cheerful.”

Volunteers make the display work, like many other holiday events, and Burgett says it’s become a family tradition just as much as it’s one for the community.

“We have families that volunteer with grandparents or grandchildren; a family will do it on Christmas Eve or maybe before Thanksgiving is their time,” she said. “Volunteers are always interested, and once people do it they don’t ever let it go if they can help it, which is kind of cool.”

The entrance is located near the Peterson House on Broadway Avenue, and the path winds through the park’s drive. Admission is free, but donations are accepted at the end of the drive.

“There’s just something about seeing the park all lit up; it’s just reassuring,” Burgett said.

Contact Zyskowski at kzyskowski@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6869.

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