Masonic Park and Youth Camp hosts Christmas lights extravaganza
By LOIS KINDLE
If you like riding around to check out Christmas light displays, you won’t want to miss the one at Masonic Park and Youth Park in Wimauma this year.
“We’ve put out close to 300,000 lights so far, and will probably add more,” said Park Manager David Brigham. “We do this for three reasons: First and foremost to celebrate Christmas and Christ’s birth; second, to encourage people to come out to the park and see all the wonderful lights; and third, as an outreach to the community.”
Residents are invited to view the lights between dusk and 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and dusk to 10 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through Dec. 31.
Oodles of Christmas lights are placed around the park’s one-quarter mile looped drive through the woods that passes five buildings and displays throughout. Guests are also invited to view a choreographed light show in front of Walt Harris Hall that will include more than 20 selections of Christmas music transmitted through the Masonic Park Channel, 106.7 FM; leaping arches, a light wall and a 17-foot and 20-foot mega-tree, artificial snow machines and bubble machines.
Admission is free, but cash donations and/or donations of nonperishable goods are much appreciated. Last year, the Masonic Park and Youth Ranch gave all donated food to Our Lady’s Food Pantry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Mission in Wimauma. And the cash donations, which went to the Masonic Park Charity Fund, were used to help cover medical expenses for a family in need.
The light show is made possible by Roger Forbes and his wife, Mary of Elizabethton, Tenn., who became winter residents of the Masonic Park two years ago.
The 72-year-old electronics whiz has a thing about Christmas displays, and his holiday came with him when he came to Florida.
“It all started about 25 to 30 years ago, when I put lights on my front porch, and then my neighbor put out more than I did,” Forbes said. “So I added some to the door, then the eaves, then the walls, then the trees…finally we had to call a truce.”
At one time, he said he decorated five houses on his street back home, and there were so many visitors the police had to close it off.
“We had 500 to 600 cars per night drive by,” Forbes said.
“It just got out of hand,” he continued. “So when we began wintering here at the park, we donated our entire light display, including props, fixtures and sound systems. It took three big trucks to carry it all.”
Since then, the park has received other lights and displays from other donors, Brigham said.
The Masonic Park and Youth Camp is at 18050 U.S. 301 S, Wimauma. Established in 1969 by the 16 Masonic lodges in Hillsborough County, the 204-acre park is managed by a nonprofit board and is open to the public.
It offers youth camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, recreational vehicle camping and a venue corporate parties and church group events.
For more information, visit www.masonicparkflorida.com or call 813-813-634-1220.