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For as long as I can remember, the weekend after Thanksgiving has had nothing to do with shopping. There are no trips to the mall for the Black Friday deals or hours spent online, hoping to score the latest and greatest toy at the best price. What we do is spend time as a family getting into the spirit of Christmas and going to places like Jonesboro’s Christmas at the Park.
After I pack the leftover turkey into the refrigerator and I have eaten one too many pieces of pie, I enter Christmas mode. I spend Thanksgiving evening working off the extra helping of stuffing by lugging down all the Christmas decorations and getting everything ready for our trip to the Christmas tree farm on Friday morning.
On Saturday, after we trim the tree and our own lights have been strung from the eves, we pile into the car and head out to look at Christmas lights. In years past, we have traveled to Sherwood, Shelby Farms in Memphis and even Branson to visit the drive-thru light displays. This year, we were excited that we didn’t have to travel as far as Christmas at the Park opened in Jonesboro on November 22. Now, Northeast Arkansans have a lighted display all their own that is scheduled to grow even bigger and better over the years.
Announced in July, Adam Sartin, one of the display’s founders, has kept his promise to bring a lighted wonderland and Santa to Northeast Arkansas. Sartin was inspired to begin the attraction when he attended a similar display in another city with his daughters in 2018. He immediately started making plans to start a new tradition in Jonesboro.
Sartin is not a stranger to lighted Christmas decor. Since 2000, he has owned Ground Crew, a landscaping company that often spends the late fall installing Christmas lights and decor at homes and businesses around Northeast Arkansas. Sartin had the support of the Ground Crew team but knew they couldn’t undertake such a large event on their own. Sartin connected with Danny Kapalos, director of Jonesboro Parks and Recreation, who in turn, reached out to Lydia Parkey, executive director of St. Bernards Medical Group.
From there, things quickly fell into place. The City of Jonesboro provided Joe Mack Campbell Park in the northwest corner of Jonesboro as the location. Donors and sponsors jumped on board and light displays, including a few custom A-State-themed pieces, were designed all to bring Christmas cheer and joy to the residents of Northeast Arkansas.
On Saturday, we piled into the car and made the short drive to Jonesboro, where we got to enjoy the lights firsthand. $10 covers the cost of up to eight people in a single vehicle. Cars then follow a road lined with more than 37 different displays containing almost 400 individual lighted pieces with a total of 350,000 individual lights. The highlight of the trail is the 300’ drive-thru tunnel that is believed to be the longest in the country.
The display is designed to encourage participants to interact with different areas. Several parking lots along the trail provide the opportunity for you to get out and walk among the displays. Kids can participate in a scavenger hunt and mark certain pieces on the trail map for a free hot-cocoa at the concession stand. And of course, you won’t want to miss Santa, who is taking time out of his busy schedule to be there from 5-8:30 every night through December 23.
Throughout the season, there will be special event nights including a meet and greet with A-State Mascots Howl and Scarlet, the Santa Shuffle Fun Run, Christmas caroling and a fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. Christmas at the Park will be open through January 4. You can view the complete schedule here.
Although Santa was a no-go for our cautious three-year-old this year, we thoroughly enjoyed everything else offered at Christmas at the Park. My husband loved the drive-thru light tunnel, our son loved the lighted Grandfather clock and my favorite part was the Snowflake Forest. We plan to return at least once more during the season, and we look forward to seeing Christmas at the Park grow over the next few years.
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