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What goes up…

High up in a bucket lift, Jeff Zinniel helps take down holiday lights at Sportsman’s Park in Sleepy Eye.

SLEEPY EYE — The Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights in Motion display at Sportsman’s Park was a major regional hit this season, but like every year, the display needs to come down.

Over the weekend a few dozen locals volunteered their time to take down over 350,000 lights from Sportsman’s Park on the north shore of Sleepy Eye Lake.

This year, the holiday lights ran through January 10. Co-founder of the Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights Mike Suess said they began taking lights down on Monday, January 11.

“We took advantage of the weather,” Suess said. The weather was unusually warm most of last week. The colder weather did not arrive until Thursday. This meant the weekend volunteers would have to work in the cold, but Suess was confident they could finish the task by the weekend.

Taking down the holiday lights is not as glamorous as putting the lights up, but it is something that must be done. Leaving the lights up year-round is not only a seasonal faux pas; it is damaging to the lights.

Suess said when they started putting lights up in November, some strands of lights were found in the trees from last year. A full year in the elements had wrecked the lights. In fact, it does not take a full year for the holiday lights to become damaged.

Suess said the blizzard that hit after the lights went up this year caused extreme winds that damaged between 15% and 20% of the lights. Some of the lights were repairable, but many were not.

Fortunately, this year’s Holiday Lights display was able to continue with even more lights than last year.

Suess said the 2020 display received higher donations and higher traffic. They estimate around 20,000 vehicles toured the lights show this season. Many of the vehicles came from the Mankato region.

Suess was thankful for all the individuals and companies that helped in the setup and takedown. Several trucks with aerial bucket lifts were used to assist with the takedown process. Suess said Zinniel Tree Service, Trackwork, Brown County REA, M.R Paving, C&S Grain Systems and Highline Construction were among those that offered bucket trucks to help with the takedown.

After the lights were taken down at Sportsman’s Park, the strands were transported to St. Mary’s, Sleepy Eye. There, volunteers would separate the individual strands. Lori Neidecker said multiple strands of different colors were twist-tied together and needed to be untied before storage. Once separated, the light strands were separated by color on the school’s gym floor. Then the lights were plugged in once last time to see if they still worked before being wound on an industrial spool for storage.

The majority of the lights were found reusable and will be kept in a safe place until the holiday season next year.

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