Lighting up Copper Harbor for the holidays

COPPER HARBOR – About eight years ago, Don Kilpela Jr. thought the businesses in Copper Harbor would benefit from a special Christmas decoration display, and that started him on a tradition that is ongoing.

Kilpela, who is co-owner of the Isle Royale Queen IV ferry boat based in Copper Harbor, said he saw an extreme display of Christmas lights in an Indiana community, and he thought that might work in Copper Harbor.

“If I put up a nice display, people would come up to see Christmas lights,” he said. “The real challenge we face (in getting people to come to Copper Harbor) is the long distance.”

Kilpela said he puts up lights in the park behind the Copper Harbor community center on Gratiot Street.

“(This year) I put up about 50,000 lights,” he said.

To help pay for the lights, Kilpela said he raised $1,700 from community members. In order to save on the cost of electricity, he wants to use LED bulbs next year.

“The energy savings with LED is 80 percent,” he said.

He and some other volunteers started installing the lights on trees in the park in the first week in November, Kilpela said.

“It’s a community effort,” he said.

The lights will stay up through New Year’s Day, Kilpela said.

Kilpela said the lights will be turned on at 6 p.m. Saturday. The ceremony is one of three events taking place then. Bonnie and Rich Harrer will be selling cookies, also.

“The cookies are extraordinary,” he said.

There will also be the fifth annual Winter Wonderfest bazaar during the day, Kilpela said. During the bazaar, there will be raffle for a child’s bicycle and a gift certificate, both provided by Walmart. The raffle is for children 12 years old and younger.

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Santa will be in the community center handing out gifts. At 5 p.m. there will be cookie decorating, also in the community center.

After Saturday, Kilpela said the lights will be on from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day until at least New Year’s Day.

To help with the decorating of the park, Kilpela said he goes to thrift shops to get decorations people have gotten rid of.

“There’s stuff out there they don’t make anymore,” he said.

In many of the past years, Kilpela said there was little or no snow when he installed the lights, but snow and wind have made the process difficult this time. “This year has been the most challenging,” he said.