Turn on the Lights!

Oskaloosa Main Street's "Turn on the Lights!" will be held Saturday, Nov. 19 from 5:30-8 p.m. The lights will turn on at 6 p.m. Visitors will be treated to hot cider and cocoa, cookies, a visit from Santa and his reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides around the square and more.

OSKALOOSA — Christmastime is right around the corner for Oskaloosa, and once again, the city will be strutting its stuff as the town square shines in festive lights.

Oskaloosa Main Street will hold its “Turn on the Lights!” event from 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, when the town square’s seasonal lighting display will officially begin. Storefronts along the town square will be “painted” in over 300,000 colorful LED bulbs, bringing festive cheer to Oskaloosa and giving the city a unique holiday attraction to bring visitors downtown.

The lighting display, called “Painting with Lights,” began in 2016, according to Oskaloosa Main Street’s director Amy Brainard.

“We have had the lights up since 2016,” Brainard says. “We’ve just always kind of encouraged people to go and check them out.”

In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Christmas display became an event that could connect the Oskaloosa community during lockdown. Oskaloosa Main Street invited people to a drive-up lighting ceremony to watch the lights come on. That was the first official “Turn on the Lights!” event.

Last year marked the first event that was able to take place without COVID restrictions. Oskaloosa Main Street partnered with Mahaska Drug to put on a full-scale holiday event, which included hot cider, cocoa, a visit from Santa Claus and his reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides and more. The event also honored Citizens of the Year John and Jane Nicholson.

This year’s event will continue in the same vein. Community members and visitors alike will be treated to hot cider and cocoa, cookies, a visit from Santa and his reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides around the square and children’s goodies handed out by Mahaska Drug. The Christmas tree displayed in the town square will be turned on at the same time, giving families the opportunity to snap festive photos. 

Oskaloosa Main Street is collaborating with Bruce Peiffer, director of the Oskaloosa City Band, to provide live music for the event, weather permitting.

This year’s Citizen of the Year will be Scottie Moore, who will have the honor of officially turning on the lights at 6 p.m. Moore is a former Oskaloosa High School teacher who has left her mark on the Oskaloosa community.

“She was a longtime Oskaloosa High School teacher and just made a huge impact in the lives of so many Oskaloosa graduates, and she’s continued to come back and volunteer for so many events in the community for years,” Brainard says. “She served on the school board, she’s just been really active in our community, so it was just kind of our way to say thank you to her and recognize her for all of the great things she’s done throughout her life.”

Brainard says the response from the community has been positive, and the event is a collaborative effort of Oskaloosans.

“Painting with Lights does cost around $30,000 a year,” Brainard says. “So we would love it if people could support the raffle that we have going on. They can purchase tickets at Mahaska Drug, here, at the chamber office, and then also at H&S Feed, and we will have raffle tickets the night of Turn on the Lights! So people can buy them there that night.”

Raffle tickets are priced at one for $10 or five for $40 dollars. Prizes include a family pass to Blank Park Zoo for the coming year, an Adventureland family pass, a $100 Snobiz gift card, $150 gift card to Brown’s Shoe Fit, Barnstormer tickets and more. Each raffle entry is one chance to win a prize, and the raffle goes toward funding Painting with Lights.

The event is free to the public.

Channing Rucks can be reached at crucks@oskyherald.com.

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