Manchester Holiday Lights Could Move
Since 2012, the Naperville community stops by the Brookdale subdivision to enjoy a neighborhood holiday lights display – the Manchester Lights Show.
Now the project’s organizer, Matt Baker, is planning on moving the event to a Naperville Park District site.
Due to the pandemic, many people were looking for things to do. Because of this, last year’s around 10-minute lights show saw heavier traffic than usual. Baker said they received a total of around 10,000 to 12,000 cars.
The higher traffic, having to turn some cars away as the night hours grew later, and keeping his neighbors’ comfort in mind, Baker saw it fit to change up the location.
“Our thought is that hopefully with a ticket system in place for this year, we will be able to control the traffic better so it’s a nice experience for everyone,” said Baker. “We can’t be charging tickets at the current location because it’s a public road, it’s a neighborhood. So we really need to find a more appropriate location where we can do this at so that’s where the park district comes into play.”
Baker submitted a special event request to the Naperville Park District to move the lights show to the Bill Young Athletic Fields and presented his idea to the parks and recreation committee on February 19.
“Our primary concern among staff was being able to support an event like this with the logistics and work with the event organizer as far as controlling the number of cars coming in at one time so it does not result in traffic issues,” said Brad Wilson, director of recreation and facilities at the meeting. “While the Bill Young Athletic Fields were proposed as a location, we’re open, and I believe Matt’s open, to looking at other potential locations such as the Frontier Sports Complex with a larger area, larger parking lot.”
The potential new space could come with a ticket fee. Since the lights show began, it’s been free for the community. If a move happens, tickets could range from $10 to $15 per car for a 15-20 minute show.
Baker said his company, Brookdale Landscaping & Lighting, partly covers the costs of putting on the production and personally pays for the whole show, which costs between $10,000 to $15,000 every year.
“There’s a lot of people who come to the show and think the park district pays for it all or the city pays for it all,” said Baker. “It’s our gift [to the community]. No one is forcing us to pay that $15,000. It’s ok now but as I get older – you have more responsibilities. So ideally charged tickets will cover our costs and help support staff.”
If Baker is able to partner with the park district, some of his plans include making sure this isn’t a drive-thru event. Rather each car coming in will have a designated spot like at a drive-in movie theater. Then people can enjoy the show by tuning into 88.5 on the radio, similar to the current setup on Manchester Court.
Baker would also like to add more aspects to “make it more of an event than just a come to your neighborhood lights show.”
Help from the Park District
The 20-year-old appreciates the park district’s help in not only providing a rental space for the lights show, but potentially partnering with Baker.
“To me I think it’s really cool that I’m just some kid that started a lights show and the park district wants to partner with it. I think that’s crazy,” said Baker. “We’re really lucky that they want to help with this.”
Baker was only 12 years old when he started the annual lights show and has watched it grow year after year. So for him, it won’t be easy to see it change location.
“That’s what keeps me going [is] hearing all the stories of how people when they come home from work they’re frustrated and then they go to the light show to relieve that stress, or their kids have to go to the light show before they go to bed,” said Baker. “There’s so many of those stories that keeps you going. As excited as I am to move it, it will be hard.”
At the parks and recreation committee meeting, Baker said it would be best for the park district to make a decision by the end of May so he can start planning for the new show.
The plan is still in the early stages and no final decisions have been made yet.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.