BY TOM BUSSELBERG
LAYTON – For almost two decades, Layton’s Commons Park has been transformed into a wonderland of lights at Christmas.
Nearly half a million lights are strung on trees and in standing displays over an area as big as Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Every evening through New Year’s, hundreds of cars weave in and out of the park, while residents who prefer to walk, brave the cold and get an up-close look at what’s on display.
The park is at 437 N. Wasatch Drive, across from Layton High School.
“Our long-time parks superintendent, ‘Woody,’ or Jim Woodward, dreamed it all up,” said Dave Thomas, Layton City Recreation Supervisor.
Rocky Mountain Power installed pedestals and Woodward started collecting animal-shaped displays of all kinds Р a process that continues to this year, Thomas said.
The now-deceased Woodward had a passion for the park and all things connected with it, and he started working with Milton Neeley, an artist and welder in Hooper.
Neeley created the Wind Blower as part of the giant Old Man Winter display that debuted this year.
It’s a big face blowing cold air, about 8 feet tall. It’s at the north end by the large pavilion. People will spot it as they exit the pedestrian tunnel.
“I spent probably a week on it, putting it together and making adjustments,” he said.
Neeley’s work is displayed nationwide, from one at the Toledo Ohio Zoo to a 14-foot stainless steel globe installed in Connecticut to one in Coalville that created controversy in that small Summit County community.
Some of the animals used in the holiday display have also been donated by families, usually in a loved one’s memory.
About a dozen employees from the city’s parks department string lights and start preparing for the light show from Sept. 1 on, said Parks Superintendent Brock Hill.
“They’ve been restringing animals off and on since October, and also do that during winter months,” he said.
The display has become a holiday tradition that doesn’t depict a Christmas message, but rather a festival of lights, Thomas said.
An adjacent nativity display, in front of the LDS Seminary building, is maintained by several area churches.