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Let there be lights and lots of volunteers

Bentleyville needs volunteers to set up the lighting display. (Photo by Richard Thomas)

It's hard for many of us to say goodbye to summer. Once the kids are back in school, it truly marks the end of the summer season. And as we look at preparing for events in Duluth's Downtown Waterfront District, we jump right into gearing up for the holiday season.

In just a few short weeks, volunteers will be needed to help transform Bayfront Festival Park into Duluth's popular holiday lighting display, the Bentleyville Tour of Lights. Bentleyville begins set-up 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 and continues every Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 30. The kick-off weekend is the perfect time to get a large group together as approximately 10 semi trailers will need to be unloaded. This is just the first step in getting all of the displays and decorations into the park.

With more than 4 million lights, Bentleyville is billed as America's largest free walk-through lighting display. While the display seems magical, the lights and decorations don't just appear like magic. It takes an army of volunteers to help set up this event and I encourage you to lend a helping hand. While some of us might not even think about holiday decorating yet, it's so much easier to string lights and put out displays when your fingers are not turning numb from the cold. Plus, our local restaurants will provide a free lunch to volunteers on both Saturdays and Sundays.

If your weekends are too hectic, there's also a chance to volunteer during the week on Wednesday nights starting Sept. 28. Crews will be at the park 5-8 p.m. each Wednesday through the end of October. Approximately 267,000 people came out to visit Bentleyville last year, so your volunteer efforts make a significant impact and allow visitors to enjoy a magical experience.

Our community knows how to respond when volunteers are needed for events and specific causes. We are proud of our fine city and we stand united in helping to showcase it to others. This is an event that has transformed our winter season and has lured hundreds of thousands of people to our waterfront. Call your friends, neighbors or colleagues and put this great volunteer opportunity on your calendar. You can help make a difference. You can be part of the magic. Bentleyville only happens because of generous volunteers like you.

If you would like to offer your time to make the season brighter, just stop down to Bayfront Park on designated volunteer set-up days or visit

Kristi Stokes

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549.