Friday, November 25, 2016

TOP STORY >> Sherwood’s Trail of Lights

Leader staff writer

Even before Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman Young flips the switch on the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights this Monday, visitors will notice one big change.

The entrance to the popular light show has been moved from Maryland Avenue to the parking lot of the Sherwood Sports Complex on Bear Paw Road.

Young says the decision was made because the Sherwood holiday tradition continues to grow in popularity and traffic was becoming a problem. In part because of the increased number of visitors but also the residential and commercial growth the nearby neighborhood was experiencing.

“It was becoming frustrating for people who live there,” Young says.

According to A and P Commission Chairman and Alderman Marina Brooks, in 2014, about 13,352 cars, most with multiple occupants, traveled the trail.

Last year, volunteers counted 14,541 vehicles, with about $49,000 in cash donations and 8,000 pounds in food donations.

Brooks feels that the increase can be attributed, in part, to the fact that North Little Rock no longer has a holiday-lights display.

“We gained a few more cars,” and she says she expects the number to grow this season.

The money for the Trail of Lights displays comes from Sherwood’s hamburger tax and is sponsored by the A and P Commission, while the cash donations collected are used to purchase new light displays.

As well as getting people in the holiday spirit, Brooks says it’s the city’s way of giving back and the Trail of Lights is more popular than other celebrations throughout the year.


The annual Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights lighting ceremony and reception will happenat 5:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 at the entrance of the trail with free warm drinks and snacks available as Young lights up the 2016 holiday season, and the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce commemorates the new entrance with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The mile-long driving trail will be open Monday, Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 30 every evening, and a few of the displays include a soda shop, the Sherwood Express, Santa Claus and a field of angels.

Admission is free, however, cash donations or non-perishable food items will be accepted at the trail’s end.


The mayor has held a ceremony to open the Trail of Lights for public viewing since 2007, and this year is no different.

Young says about this year’s Monday evening ceremony, “It’s still fun to throw the switch. It kicks off the festivities in our city.”

Brooks says more than days like Black Friday, the Trail of Lights means the holiday season in Sherwood has arrived.

“It’s so joyful. It gets people in the Christmas spirit,” but she says it also appeals to the community’s softer, giving side.

She cites recent food donations that are collected during December, and says it goes to the Sylvan Hills Community Church Food Pantry.

“It’s a very magical time, especially for kids,” Brooks says.

But behind the scenes, Sherwood Assistant Parks Director Darren Austin says it takes two parks employees about a month to get the displays setup and all the LED lights working, which requires a few evening hours.

Austin says it’s “a challenge to see if the LED lights are working in the daylight.”

In addition to two full-time employees, another three employees help out when needed.

The Trail of Lights became reality in Sherwood after former Mayor Bill Harmon visited Pine Bluff and saw their holiday light display called the Enchanted Forest Land of Lights & Legends at Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park.

That was in the early 2000s.

Austin says, “It was popular right from the start.”

Now, he says the first generation who saw the displays as young kids are bringing their young kids, and he adds, “It’s very rewarding.”

This year, the new display includes the first three days of the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which are: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves and three French hens.

Hopefully, the city will add more days from the song over the next few years.

As important as Austin’s employees contributions to the process, he says Trail of Light volunteers, who are out there every evening, make the whole process run more smoothly.

It takes at least four volunteers at the entrance and at the exit.

“The guys at the end get to hand out the candy canes. They have a good time…Seeing one car full of smiling and excited kids makes it all worth it, now multiply that by 14,000.”

For more information about the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights, call 501-413-8030.