Going, going, gone: An insatiable appetite for ‘Fantasy of Lights’ at Vasona Lake Park

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Amid the darkest days of the pandemic holiday season last year, the “Fantasy of Lights” event put on by the County of Santa Clara at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos offered nearly half a million tiny beacons of normalcy and, perhaps, hope for those yearning for a fun family outing.

With capacity curtailed by a 10 p.m. curfew, tickets for the 2020 season sold out before opening night. And this year, the appetite for holiday lights remains insatiable. All 9,000 tickets for this weekend’s opening walk-through event were snapped up hours after going on sale, even though the Parks and Recreation Department issued them on three different dates to give more people a chance to snag them.

Drive-through tickets are also going fast: As of Wednesday, a limited number of post-Christmas slots were still available. Check availability at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fantasy-of-lights-drive-thru-2021-tickets-198555243077

“It’s still a tricky world,” said Debra King, a Parks Program Coordinator for the County of Santa Clara, reflecting on the event’s newly booming popularity. “A lot of people want to gather with their family and close friends in as safe a way as possible.”

“It’s still a tricky world,” said Debra King, a Parks Program Coordinator for the County of Santa Clara, reflecting on the event’s newly booming popularity. “A lot of people want to gather with their family and close friends in as safe a way as possible.”

King said that it’s a family tradition for many and, after 23 years, it’s heartwarming to see people who first came as tots now bring their own children to share in the same delights. She said they do all they can to accommodate as many people as possible, but the way the traffic runs through the park, only so many slots are available.

“It’s not something we can run through the night, or keep going outside December,” she said, adding that it’s taxing on Parks and Recreation resources – about a third of the staff is re-routed to “Fantasy of Lights” duty for the month.

Because of supply chain problems, they were not able to add to the menagerie of displays this year. But the regulars are there: basketball-shooting Santa, the Vasona Lake serpent, the “Pirate Cannons,” the “Dinosaur Den” – some featuring animation and sound.

“We’ve added displays over the years and retired only one or two, due to age,” King said. “People like the nostalgia, they like seeing the old displays back up again.”

She said folks can anticipate seeing some new attractions for the 2022 Fantasy of Lights edition.

“We understand not everybody celebrates the same way, and we try to shy away from denominational decorations,” she said. “We are looking into adding something for Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah. And, also, some nature-oriented displays.”

The "Dinosaur Den" lighted sculpture at "Fantasy of Lights" at Vasona Park in Los Gatos features animation and sound.

The animated and roaring "Dinosaur Den" is a crowd-pleaser at the "Fantasy of Lights" event produced by the County of Santa Clara at Vasona Lake County Park. The event has seen a surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FUN FACTS

  • All told, the displays consist of approximately a half-million individual light bulbs.
  • Incandescent bulbs were replaced with LEDs – each by hand – starting in 2015.
  • There are a few classic displays that still use incandescent bulbs. Try to spot them!
  • The switch to LEDs saves energy! It cut the number of generators used to power them in half, despite the growing number of displays.
  • The lights start going up in early September – much to the dismay of some park-goers. “We do get complaints,” said Park Program Coordinator Debra King. “They say ‘It’s too early for Christmas!’ I get it, but that’s unfortunately when it needs to begin to be ready by December.”

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