Festival of Lights concludes with annual Christmas Carnival

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Whoville Inc. hosted its fifth annual Festival of Lights Family Christmas Carnival in the Blue Earth Plaza on Sunday afternoon.

The carnival featured games, prizes, rides, face-painting and a live jazz concert performed by local musicians.

“The jazz band at the beginning was very good; it was very catchy,” said Brecken Broadbent, carnival attendee and junior in communication sciences and gerontology. “I wanted to dance the whole time!”

Whoville Inc. partnered with Hy-Vee and the Hilton Garden Inn to provide free hot dogs, cookies and hot cocoa for guests.

Children and their families could pile into one of two horse-drawn carriages, a children’s train ride or the Manhattan Trolley for a ride around the Blue Earth Plaza.

The Manhattan Fire Department also brought along one of their trucks and allowed kids to take a look inside.

DeHart Plumbing, Heating & Cooling held a toy drive to provide needy children with toys for the holidays.

“I grew up very poor, so this is very personal to me,” Lawrence DeHart, owner of DeHart Plumbing, said. “When I was seven, my mom had to tell me that there was no such thing as Santa because there were no toys under the tree.”

By 3:30 p.m., the donation drive had brought in numerous new and used toys.

Whoville Inc. and the Festival of Lights began five years ago, when a group of four locals and several donors erected a Christmas tree in Blue Earth Plaza for the holiday season. Since then, Whoville Inc. has hosted the Festival of Lights each year.

Belinda Snyder, one of the event’s organizers, said the Festival of Lights events are entirely funded by donors, allowing everything to be free for guests.

The Festival of Lights officially kicked off with a tree-lighting ceremony on Black Friday, followed by an ice sculpting contest Dec. 2. The Family Christmas Carnival concluded the group’s events for the year.

“We work on this event for about ten months of the year,” Joey Athon, event organizer, said.

By the end of the event, Athon said nearly 5,000 people took part in the festivities, well beyond the expected turnout of less than 2,000.

“We always need volunteers,” Athon said. “Volunteer, volunteer!”

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