MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights

MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights – Beloved holiday tradition opens Nov. 25

A new display will highlight a beloved North Texas and southern Oklahoma holiday tradition when it comes to life at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25. “A Frozen Christmas” will join the more than 40 other displays in the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights on the lawn of Midwestern State University’s Hardin Administration Building.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of MSU Texas’ association with the tradition begun by Wichita Falls businessman L.T. Burns and his wife Lillian in the 1920s.

“The same amazing architect and creator who brought us ‘A Toy’s Christmas’ will bring a new masterpiece to life – ‘A Frozen Christmas,’” said Dirk Welch, coordinator of the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights. Since its donation to the Fantasy of Lights in 2013, “A Toy’s Christmas” has been a crowd favorite. Welch said the timing of bringing this new display to the collection couldn’t have worked out better with Frozen II set to hit theaters Nov. 22.

Also new this year, trunks of several trees that line the walking path through the displays will have red and while lights strung around them, turning the walks into a festive “Candy Cane Lane.”

MSU’s carillonneur Jim Quashnock will begin the festivities at 5:30 p.m. with holiday music on the Redwine Carillon in the Hardin Administration Building tower. At 6 p.m., MSU Texas President Suzanne Shipley will welcome guests before the lights are turned on. Santa Claus will join the festivities to visit with children, and free hot chocolate will be served.

The Ben Franklin Elementary Choir will sing at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Hardin Building, and the MSU Texas Wind Ensemble and Junior High Honor Band Invitational concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Akin Auditorium. Food trucks will be parked south of the Hardin Administration Building. Trucks scheduled to participate include Bahama Buck’s, Collective Coffee, El Norteno, Kona Ice, Mack Daddy’s Grill, and Old Time Funnel Cakes.

In the 1920s when the Burns were newlyweds, they could only afford to place a single bulb on a tree on the front porch as a Christmas decoration. With Burns’ success in the oil industry, the couple began adding more lights and displays each year. He died in a car accident in 1954, but Mrs. Burns continued adding to the displays at their home on Clarinda Avenue and Harrison Street. After her death in 1971, the lights were left to her son, who died in 1974. The lights were then in the care of Archer City. The town offered the lights to Midwestern on the condition that they be operated free of charge as a memorial to Mrs. Burns. A photo of Mrs. Burns greeting visitors is posted near the welcome sign. Today, descendants of the Burns are active in the Fantasy of Lights work and sponsor several of the displays.

Welch said that MSU is honored and proud to continue such a remarkable and cherished tradition as the Fantasy of Lights. “The lights are a tribute to Mrs. Burns, and they remind us of all the joy, wonder, and magic that the holiday season brings,” Welch said.

Wichita Falls Independent School District’s Career Education Center continued its tradition of contributing to the Fantasy of Lights by refurbishing Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs and Santa’s Chimney. Nexstar Broadcasting refurbished the Old Woman in the Shoe and the Robot. The letters on the Welcome sign have new covers and LED bulbs.

Admission to the Fantasy of Lights is free. Donations are welcomed and needed to maintain the displays, and to keep the Fantasy of Lights a successful holiday tradition. Look for donation boxes stationed in the displays. Donations also may be made online.

The displays will be turned on seven days a week from dusk to 10 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 28. Special daytime hours for school groups are 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For more information visit the Fantasy of Lights website or call 940-397-4352.

Fun Run

The Fantasy of Lights 5K & 1-Mile Fun Run will take place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, beginning at the Hardin Lawn. Registration for the 5K is $25, and $15 for the 1-mile fun run. The first 25 MSU students run free, $15 for all other students. The first 100 contestants to register will receive a long-sleeved race T-shirt. Register online.

A $25 gift card will be awarded to the fastest male and female 5K runners, the best dressed holiday-themed male and female participants, and the worst dressed holiday-themed male and female participants. Santa Claus will make a special guest appearance. All registration proceeds help support the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights. Festive holiday music, hot chocolate, water, and snacks will be provided. The character village will be available for photos. Check-in and late registration begins at 9:30 a.m. with the race beginning at 10 a.m. Foods trucks will be on site.

Santa’s Mailbox

Those special letters to Santa may be deposited in Santa’s Mailbox, which will be available from Nov. 15 to Dec. 13 on the Fantasy of Lights grounds. Include a self-address stamped envelope for Santa’s reply. Contact the City of Wichita Falls Parks and Recreation office at 940-761-7490 for more information.