September 22, 2018
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Lighting Up the Night

Meet the makers of Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights
Mike Baehl assembles the entryway arches vehicles drive beneath to enter the light show.

The twinkling light displays of Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights has Garvin Park glowing for the 20th year this holiday season. Yet there is more than meets the eye to this Tri-State holiday tradition, as the true meaning of the Fantasy of Lights is below the surface. Posey County, Ind., resident Chris Thorsen, 58, is the training director for the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and is one of the hundreds of volunteers who work diligently to make the annual tradition come to life each year.

The drive-through winter light show, open from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, has grown into one of Easter Seals’ top fund-raising events. In its 19 years, the event raised more than $2.5 million to underwrite almost 83,000 therapy sessions for Tri-State adults and children with disabilities at the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center.

It takes more than 1,000 hours to assemble what has grown to 62 light displays in the park. This year, the marathon set-up day for members of the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 16, the Southern Indiana Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, Teamsters Local No. 215, and others, was on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The work did not end there, however, as the logistics of finalizing the electrical details continued until the opening day. Moving from one display to the next, volunteers precisely positioned all pieces, staking them into the ground and wiring each strand of lights into the circuits that were strategically placed throughout the park.

“We sweat right down to the time the switch is flipped,” Thorsen says. Throughout the holiday season, electricians continue to volunteer their time on site to ensure each display is up and running. 

Thorsen has volunteered since the first year the Fantasy of Lights took place, and he has seen its impact on Easter Seals. “My kids and grandkids are healthy, and I feel blessed,” Thorsen says, close to tears. “If we can help those kids who are not, it is very satisfying.” Tom Millay, executive director of the Southern Indiana Chapter for the National Electrical Contractors Association, has worked with Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights for 11 years and says all the involved entities are community minded. “The benefit that comes out of this for Easter Seals is huge,” Millay says.

“We are really just so fortunate that businesses and volunteers still support it after all this time, and we try to make it a little different and something new every year,” adds Pam Kirk, the director of marketing and customer relations for Easter Seals.

For more information, call 812-437-2627 or visit www.eastersealsswindiana.com. Ticket costs per vehicle are $7 for up to six people, $10 for 7-14 people, and $25 for 15 people or more.

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