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New route, transportation options added to Rhinelander's Lights of the Northwoods in year two
RHINELANDER - Dialing in her car radio to 87.9 FM at Hodag Park in Rhinelander put Erica Chariton into a festive mood on Friday morning.

"It's the Field of Dreams moment, as I like to call it," Chariton said.

Her group's months of hard work all led up to Friday night: the grand opening of the Lights of the Northwoods year two at 5 p.m.  The show expanded from one weekend to two, with lights displays Friday through Sunday from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

"Yes, [we added] a lot more lights this year," Chariton, the group's secretary, said with a laugh.

Volunteers helped run cabling and string up about 125,000 lights in Hodag Park over the past month, which is more than 2017's total. Last year, around 10,000 people drove through the three-day show, but backups down Thayer Street (as far as Davenport Street at times) led to a change.

Cars will turn left off Thayer onto Rose Street, go down the hill to the boat landing, make a u-turn, and end up turning left onto Messer Street for the start.

"We definitely are walking a fine line," Chariton said. "We're trying to keep the streets safe for, obviously the public, the residents that live around the park."

Rhinelander police will do their part in that regard. Sergeant Kurt Helke says there will be patrol units throughout the park, helping the yellow-vested volunteers who are directing traffic.

"Follow the signage, just go with the flow. Don't cut into certain areas. Be courteous, be patient," Helke said.

The Lights group knew some people would be hesitant to navigate the traffic in the park, so new this year they added another option: a free shuttle.

A Bowen's school bus will run on its own dedicated route from the Trig's parking lot along Courtney Street to the boat landing for walking tours.  The shuttle is free, thanks to donations from a number of downtown businesses.

"There's plenty of room for everybody," trip coordinator Jake Kriesel said.

Kriesel expects the bus to go on half-hour loops from 4:30 to 8:30 each night. They can hold up to 50 people at a time, making an easy adjustment for drivers used to carrying school children.

"Someone sitting in the seat is someone sitting in the seat," Kriesel said. "The most important thing for us in this event is that we're bringing the community together."

The lights show runs Friday through Sunday, Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-23. It is free, but cash and food donations are accepted at the end of the route. The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry and NATH will benefit from the donations.

For more information, visit the Lights of the Northwoods website.

Story By: Lane Kimble

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