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Ten years for holiday light extravaganza

Shining Light celebration Dec. 15-31.

Ask Barry or Gwen McDiarmid about highlights of their Shining Light celebrations over the past decade and they’ll tell you all of the displays have been special.

The couple, and volunteers, are gearing up for the 10th annual extravaganza of lights and displays scattered throughout the KOA Campground south of town.

Why do they endure the time and energy spent planning, putting up and removing the decorations each year?

“Because I’m crazy,” Barry quipped.

On a serious note, Barry and Gwen both said the money people donate after viewing the display goes to a good cause.

The McDiarmids donate what they raise each year to various charities and are open to suggestions from others.

For Barry, the display offers an enormous amount of creativity.

“It’s tough work but it gives pleasure to people,” he said. “It’s worthwhile.”

With as many as 150,000 lights strung through the trees and wound around fences and other objects, and power boxes plugged into individual camper services, Barry said the campground offers the perfect setting.

“And snow lends to the atmosphere,” he said.

Gwen said the display is gratifying to her as well.

“It’s like being in a different world down there. It’s fairy tale, make believe,” she explained. “It’s nice to be down there and away from the real world.”

This year, Barry said the display is enhanced from lights and cut-outs donated by a couple from Johnson Lake.

“Many people don’t realize that the display is different each year,” he said.

This year, Barry said he faced several weather-related challenges after he started putting up lights around Nov. 15.

Rising water in the Platte River, because of upstream ice flows, seemed to be a threat for awhile.

The Platte borders the campground and frequently causes flooding.

Strong winds ripped through the campground a couple of weeks ago, knocking down several displays and ripping a large holiday painting in half.

Cold weather, with snow and ice, meant that Barry could work limited hours per day on the display.

“I won’t get up on a ladder if there’s snow and ice,” he said.

Through the years, finding volunteers to help man the celebration becomes more difficult because of people’s busy schedules, Barry said.

But the McDiarmids have figured out ways to do with less manpower even though as many as 5,000 cars weave through the display in a year.

Each year, Barry said people from different counties, states and countries drive through Shining Light.

Last year, Barry said one woman showed up with a little girl every night of the celebration.

“I’ve learned there are a lot of nice people in Nebraska and that people who drive by on the interstate have a ‘wow’ factor when they see it,” he said.

The display will light up Thursday at 6 p.m.

Anyone who wants to suggest a charity recipient for donations should call Gwen at 537-7387.

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308-537-3636

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