It's going to look a lot like Christmas soon in Simpson Park as the first decorations go up in preparation for the 2012 Festival of Lights. Volunteers were gathering this week to unpack wreaths, garland, and the thousands of lights that will make their way onto trees and bushes throughout the park.

"We welcome anyone who would like to join us", says Barb Burton, coordinator, "this is not an exclusive group. We have fun working together in our beautiful park and enjoy being part of this great community event."

The Chillicothe Parks Department employees, under the direction of Josh Norris, and Chillicothe Municipal Utilities, under the direction of Matt Hopper, work together with Festival of Lights volunteers to decorate the park each year.

"The Festival of Lights Committee has been planning since January for the upcoming Christmas season and is excited to announce additions to the park for 2012," said Burton.

New this year, will the lighting of one of Simpson Park's favorite attractions, the Rocket Slide, the addition of an animated snowball fight between three playful snowmen, some exuberant carolers, and deer grazing under shooting stars on Armory Hill. Grand River Tech students under the direction of Lee Caughron, welding instructor, have built animated snowmen and trumpeting angels.

Jim Hinrichs and crew are making repairs and replacing lights in existing displays in preparation for the Opening Night Lighting Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 5:30 p.m. This special event will include horse-drawn sleigh rides and free hot chocolate and cider. Santa is scheduled to make a special appearance.

Funds for new displays and supplies needed to refurbish existing displays and lights come from the donations of individuals, businesses and local foundations. Donations are appreciated and can be mailed to Festival of Lights, P.O. Box 1032, Chillicothe, MO 64601. The Festival of Lights is designated as a 501(c)(3) so donations are tax deductible.

The Festival of Lights Committee includes Janet Barnhart, Marsha Beetsma, Mary Lou Wilhoit, Kathy Gilliland, Jim Hinrichs and Barb Burton. Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Festival of Lights should contact Barb at 646-2813 or any committee member for a schedule of work days and times or just stop by the park.