Holiday Lights will be in Motion Thanksgiving night! (That's tonight!)

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Dinner then head out to Sportsmen's Park to give thanks for the people who have been working since mid-October to string lights on nearly every tree and structure in the park. Well now, that's not quite right. Some of the most dedicated Holiday Lights in Motion volunteers work on the project all year round—at least in their heads—always thinking, thinking, thinking of how they can improve the show.

This past Saturday morning the conditions were very nice in the park, not windy and not cold, when I stopped out to ask the guys if everything was on track for opening night.

"Yeah, we're just finishing the last big trees today," said Jeff Zinniel, who was also providing the use of his bucket truck, again this year.

According to HLM Co-Chair Mike Suess, Zinniel has been helping string lights high up in the treetops since they started doing it 2015. The right volunteers and use of the right equipment is what has allowed the display to grow each year.

In 2014 Sleepy Eye's Holiday Lights in Motion began with five animated ground displays, donated by Bob Schabert of Courtland, who for years had delighted neighbors and those passing by his home, with his elaborate holiday decorations. When Schabert decided he couldn't handle the large display in his own year anymore, he went looking for someone who shared his enthusiasm for the fun decorations with moving lights that animated the scenes. Schabert found Suess and Co-Chair Shari Hittesdorf and the new home for his lights was established.

Each year the display has grown from those first five ground displays, to colorful lights in the trees—more and more as each year passed, along with additional delightful ground displays.

When he finally came down from the tree tops, Suess confirmed what Zinniel said. Everything was on track. I asked if the high winds lately caused any trouble. Not sure yet, said Suess.

"We'll keep going and get the rest of these trees done," he said. "Then we'll turn them on and find out if there are repairs to make."

Suess admitted he would be in the park every day until Thanksgiving, tweaking and fixing and maybe even adding something. We should all thank him for using vacation time to get everything ready (and I do thank him) but his big smile when he said it gave it away—he must kind of love it. (Thursday morning update—I just drove out to the lake to see if there was some ice, there is, and sure enough there were some trucks in the park—must be making last day adjustments!)

Andy Pelzel, who has also been instrumental in getting everything up and going for the past several years, in addition to building several new ground displays, was a bit tight-lipped about what's new this year. All three of the guys mentioned more trees are decorated this year, primarily in the area by the cabins.

Anything new on the ground this year? All I know is we might want to look around for a tropical surprise.

Holiday Lights in Motion are on 5 to 10 p.m., Thanksgiving Day through New Year's Day. 

Again this year the Servicemen's Club will provide the concessions, with various local groups working the stand and receiving the proceeds. There will be free Hay Wagon Rides, 5:30 to 8 p.m. (sponsors listed below) some nights.

The dates for Hay Wagon Rides and the Concession Stand are as follows:

Friday, Dec. 3, sponsored by Heiderscheidt Aerial, Concessions YES! Team

Saturday, Dec. 4, sponsored by Miller Sellner, Concessions SEHS After Prom

Friday, Dec. 10, sponsored by Central Region Cooperative, Concessions TBD

Saturday, Dec. 11, sponsored by Divine Providence and Lake Villa Maria, Concessions St. Mary's After Prom

Sunday, Dec. 12, sponsored by SEMC, Concessions Trinity Youth, Live Nativity 5-7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 17, sponsored by Schroepfer Inc., Concessions S.E. Area Fastpitch Assn.

Saturday, Dec. 18, sponsored by Schweiss Meats, Concessions S.E. Ambulance Service

Sunday, Dec. 19, sponsored by Auto Value, Concessions S.E. Baseball Assn.

Sunday, Dec. 26, sponsored by Nuvera, Concessions Holiday Lights in Motion

Friday, Dec. 31, sponsored by Kibble Equipment, Concessions S.E. Legion/Jr. Legion Baseball