Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights adds displays, free treats for family-fun atmosphere

The Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights has added a half-mile to the route through Franke Park and 10 displays and this year includes free hot chocolate and popcorn. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
A crew hoists up Parkview Health's display featuring Samaritan helicopter for Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Gary Schieferstein helps put together Parkview Health's display for Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights in Franke Park. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
A Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights display lies on the ground as workers get it ready for Tuesday's opening at Franke Park. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
O'Daniel Automotive Group's display has Santa off-roading. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters's moving display shows an elf spraying water atop a ladder truck. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Franke Park comes alive with color after dark during Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Santa has ditched his sleigh for a Chevrolet Silverado in the General Motors United Auto Workers 2209 display at Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Midwest America Federal Credit Union's display at Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights features a train. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
A guitar-playing Santa Claus does a jump kick in the new Sweetwater moving light display at the Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights at Franke Park. (Photo Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

A half-dozen men slowly lifted Parkview Health’s Samaritan helicopter into the air. It proved a relatively simple task on this chilly day last week in Franke Park. It was an image of the medical air transport, one of the new displays to brighten the Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights.

Fantasy of Lights, Tuesday-Dec. 31, has extended its driving route by a half-mile to 2 miles and added 10 displays, including those from Dana, Embassy Theatre and General Motors, said Tony Hudson, Blue Jacket executive director.

It also will serve free popcorn and hot cocoa in the pavilion by the lake so families can spend time together at the event, he said. It also will sell Blue Jacket merchandise, including pullovers, stocking caps and beanies and include a free ornament inside the Fantasy of Lights programs.

The price this year has doubled to $10 per vehicle, the first increase since 1994 when it was started by what is now Benchmark Services. Blue Jacket, which provides employment services for disadvantaged clients, took over management of the event in 2015.

“We’ve had to buy more utilities,” Hudson said of the increase.

The event includes 112 secular and religious scenes in more than 316 displays using 269,000 LED bulbs plus older bulbs. They include a series of lighted arches that “go into the woods I think will knock people’s socks off,” Hudson said.

About half of the money taken in at the event will go toward construction. The other half will go to put Blue Jacket clients through its Career Academy and get a job, which costs $600 per person. Blue Jacket’s goal is to have 100,000 Fantasy of Lights visitors and to serve 50 more clients next year. Every 60 vehicles at Fantasy of Lights pays for one client to go through the academy.

LIGHT THE NIGHT

WHAT: Blue Jacket Fantasy of Lights

WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 6-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Tuesday-Dec. 31.

WHERE: Franke Park, 3411 Sherman Blvd.

COST: $10 per vehicle with some pay-what-you-want nights

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