The 11th Annual Avenue of Lights at the Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland
Making Spirits BrightDecember 2014
By Sue Ralston
Picture this: it's a cold December night, Christmas is near and your family is looking for a way to get in the holiday mood. You make your way to the Glenn County fairgrounds in Orland and are greeted with the largest holiday light display north of Sacramento.
The Avenue of Lights, in its 11th year, runs from December 17-21, drawing carloads of people into the fairgrounds, allowing them to drive the meandering mile-long route filled with festive, twinkling light displays, some with moving parts, and including the beloved Giant Gingerbread House.
Those who enter stay in their cars, dim their lights and slowly take in the lights while driving the route, which can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. At the end, visitors can park and go into the North Pole Lodge, where they’ll find beautifully decorated “theme trees” such as the Humane Society tree, M&M tree, Historical Society tree and Barbie tree. A snack bar includes coffee, popcorn, cider and cookies. An added bonus: it’s warmer in the lodge.
“It’s a very exciting, huge community event. It’s quite spectacular,” says Olga Peterson, past Avenue chairperson and member of the Orland Cultural and Historical Society, which sponsors and presents the light display each year. “It originated with some of us – Marlene Corriea, Carolyn Denton, Doyle Shippelhoute, and I – realizing that the fairgrounds would be a great venue to showcase holiday lights,” she says. “We needed some seed money to get started buying lights, banners and decorations. The historical society was willing to help. We started getting lights at cost from the local Ace Hardware store and even made a trip to Sacramento to get old lights from 1950s shopping centers. They required re-wiring to bring them up to current safety codes, but we got them for a great price.”
Diana Trammel, branch manager and vice president of event sponsor Tri-Counties Bank in Orland, says, “It’s wonderful. You pile up everyone in the cars, and there’s so much to see, with something new every year. You can take your kids to see Santa in the North Pole Lodge afterwards. I can’t say enough about it. I think everyone should go.”
Merri Caywood is the key route designer, with help from Jo Collins-Tibessart. Shippelhoute is
the fair maintenance manager and route engineer. He estimates 2,300 cars go through each year, with Friday and Saturday the biggest nights. “The Avenue of Lights is a wonderful Christmas gift to the community,” says Shippelhoute.
Volunteers do all of the set-up, which takes up to three weeks. Says Peterson: “The Avenue
itself could not be put on without the incredible help of volunteers from the community: clubs,
organizations, school groups (the Orland FFA) and individuals, young and senior.” Joanne
Overton, a long-time society member, acts as one of the route watchers – volunteers who make sure people stay in their cars. “It is a wonderful sight, absolutely marvelous; it’s grown every year. It started out small, and every year they add something. People give up their time during this very busy time of year and they should be commended for that,” she says.
Other displays include reindeer on top of buildings, animated showcases, swans, snowman
snowboarders, patriotic themes, giant wooden snowladies watering a garden by the Friendly
Garden Club members, five nativities including a live nativity scene by 4-H with animals and
actors, Cowboy Christmas angels and much more. It’s the perfect event to get everyone in the