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Drive-through Fantasy Lights in Pierce County more popular than ever

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is attracting a record number of visitors this year. Jennifer Spane, Pierce County Parks & Recreation supervisor, says on weekends wait times can be up to three hours. She said the holiday tradition, now in its 26th year, is perfectly suited for a pandemic because it’s something you experience without ever leaving your car. The light display takes about 45 minutes to drive through. Spane said over the years, Fantasy Lights has worked with local technical colleges to design and build the displays.

“We’re only limited by our imagination,” she said.

She said there are definitely some crowd favorites in the myriad lighting “vignettes.”

“Everybody’s favorite is the pirate ship down by the water. It’s huge and explodes with color,” she said.

The dozens of light tunnels, which are timed to display things like a salmon leaping over your car, are also a hit, she said.

And no matter how stormy the weather is, it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to visitors.

“The lights take on a twinkle when it’s raining, and they just kind of shimmer everywhere,” she said. Likewise, Spane added, when it’s foggy or it snows, the personality of the lights change.

She said they get a lot of repeat visitors. She said Fantasy Lights tries to keep the display affordable for families by charging a per car rate of $20 or under. One change that has happened because of the pandemic, though, is that senior- and assisted-living facilities aren’t able to bring residents. They usually fill buses and vans and drive through, but with social distancing requirements that isn’t possible. So Pierce County Parks created a special video of the drive through for them.

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is open nightly through Jan. 3.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.