Drivers navigate long lines at Christmas in the Park’s opening night

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Christmas in the Park kicked off Wednesday at Longview Lake Park. It’s the unofficial start of the holiday season for a lot of families. 

There were huge numbers of people waiting in line to see Christmas lights before Thanksgiving, with lines of cars extending nearly to the park’s entrance. It took our FOX4 crew who arrived shortly after the lights turned on at 5:30 p.m., more than an hour to make it to the start of the light display.

“It’s the first opening night so everyone wants to get here before Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow,” Michelle Stankovich said.

“You know what it’s worth it. I’ve got all the patience in the world. We are ready to get out and see some lights,” Jenny Vergara said.

For many families, it’s a tradition. 

“It’s just something we’ve done for the last 10 years. It kind of kick starts the holiday season for us,” said Hunter, who was there with his wife and three daughters.

The night before Thanksgiving the past 23 years, the skies over Longview Lake have lit up for Christmas in the Sky. This year the stage show and fireworks had to be canceled because of COVID-19.

But for the 33rd straight year there were still Christmas lights and a whole lot of them — 500,000. 

“I’ve always loved Christmas. It is my absolute favorite time of year. When I was a kid, we might not have a had a huge Christmas, but we always had a huge experience driving around looking at Christmas lights,” said Erika Daniels, in town for Thanksgiving from Arkansas.

The displays will run now through Jan. 2, from 5:30-10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. So you’ve got time to see if those lines die down. But it seems in 2020, everyone is ready for Christmas now.

“It’s been a rough year so I think Christmas coming a little bit early we all need a little joy,” Daniels said.

Entrance is free, but donations are accepted. Jackson County Parks and Recreation has raised more than a million dollars over the years for charities including our own FOX4 Love Fund. 

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