At Locomotive Park in downtown Lewiston, Idaho, I’m one of hundreds in the crowd for the annual Winter Spirit lighting ceremony. The festivities began shortly after sunset with a flag presentation by the Clarkston High School JR ROTC Color Guard. On stage, a variety of entertainment followed with musical groups and a dizzying array of dancers jumping, jiving and pirouetting across the stage. At 6:00 p.m. the switch box made its way on stage, and the countdown began. Ten, nine…three, two, one. The switch flipped, and an explosion of candy-colored lights filled the park. Elated, the entire crowd cheered.
Winter Spirit started out with a few humble strands of lights draped over the park’s steam train engine. With a dedicated team of volunteers, they’ve honed their craft, and now it lights up those long winter nights with over one million lights from mid-November through the New Year. The best way to appreciate the colorful and whimsical displays is to take your time walking through the park. Lit archways lead to groves of lit trees wrapped and draped with lights and stand up displays of larger than life nutcrackers, dancing penguins, bears playing instruments and much more. There are plenty of Instagram-worthy photo ops, including inside a bright white igloo.
The entire display is outside, so be sure to dress for the weather. When in need of some warmth, purchase a hot chocolate and cozy up next to the massive stone fireplace. From here, you can watch as kids light up the dance floor as they move from one square to the next and sing along with the lighted musical tree that plays favorite holiday songs. One of the favorite displays is the Winter Spirit Express―the locomotive engine that started it all years ago. Decorated with lights to appear in motion, kids can climb aboard and ring its bell, announcing to all the arrival of the holidays.
Wrap up your evening at nearby restaurants like Mystic Café, Jollymore’s or Zany’s. For lodging, the Inn America and the Red Lion Hotel Lewiston are a short walk from Locomotive Park.
The Winter Spirit lighting ceremony takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving (in 2018, November 17). Visitors can view the lights every evening through the New Year. To find out more, go to winterspirit.com. To learn more about the Lewis Clark Valley, go to visitlcvalley.com.
This article appeared in our November/December, 2018 issue.