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Every year, thousands of visitors converge upon Mitch Park in Edmond to enjoy Luminance: An Enchanted Stroll – the largest 3D walk-through holiday light display in Oklahoma.
With more than 30 unique light displays and special events like the official tree lighting celebration on opening night, as well as an outdoor ice-skating rink, food trucks and the always popular Merry Marketplace, it’s no wonder that now more than 80,000 visit during the 6-week outdoor event.
But it wasn’t very long ago that Luminance looked very, very different.
“We had a ‘preview’ in 2017 – and we just had two displays,” said Casey Moore, Director of Management Services for the City of Edmond and part of the founding group who conceived of the Luminance event we know today. “We looked around and knew we had to do more, and we were fortunate enough to have some partners from the community step up and help make that happen.”
Thanks to support from founding sponsors the Edmond Chamber of Commerce, Edmond Economic Development Authority and Mitch Park YMCA, the “official” opening in 2018 looked much different – though still a shadow of the spectacular six-week event of today.
The 2023 opening celebration for Luminance – the annual free, walk-thru holiday light display – is Friday, Nov. 17, with opening ceremonies beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Mitch Park near the baseball fields on the east side of the YMCA.
Powered by Edmond Electric and this year’s presenting sponsor Visit Edmond, Luminance is open to the public through January 1, with the lights displays lit up 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Residents and visitors experience a one-of-a-kind holiday lighting celebration with large, colorful displays and lighting on the trees, pathways, and pavilions in the park. Edmond is the premier city to provide 3D lighted displays and visitors are sure to see something they’ve never seen before.
But it took some help to get it there.
“Edmond Electric hosted the Parade of Lights for years,” said Glenn Fisher, the Director of Edmond Electric. “It started to be a struggle to find people willing to participate in this one-night event. Also, the unpredictable weather made a one-night event a gamble. After cancelling in 2016, we decided to look at other events for Edmond to bring something of more substance. Our goal was to have something that was a true community event and was unique to Edmond.”
““Edmond Electric was looking for an alternative – something that would bring the community together to celebrate the holidays and help bring people into town,” said Sherry Jordan, the President & CEO of the Edmond Chamber, which gave $35,000 for one of the first major displays when plans for Luminance began to grow in 2018. “Edmond Electric’s team came up with the concept and was gracious enough to fund the bulk of it to get it started. We saw it as a great way to bring something special to Edmond and a great way to get people into town and see what Edmond has to offer – and maybe a great way to get them to stay to go get something to eat at a local restaurant or shop at a local store.”
The event has grown steadily over the few years since that 2018 official unveiling – which featured 20 displays and special events. By 2020, Luminance featured more than 30 light displays and an estimated 72,000 visited over its six-week run. By 2022, the number of visitors reached an estimated 80,000.
“I think it grew so quickly because it’s so accessible,” Jordan said. “It’s outside. It’s free and family-friendly and interactive. And, during COVID, it was something families could enjoy outside, safely. And, as more programming was added, it provided something for everyone – thanks, in large part, to the City and community’s continued investment in the event.”
A big part of the appeal is the personal touch the event provides. Families can stroll among the brightly lit displays, and with the ice-skating rink and special events like Merry Marketplace and the food trucks on some nights, the experience is interactive and intimate.
“It’s a much more intimate experience than seeing lights from a car as you drive by,” said Jennifer Thornton, the Tourism Director for Visit Edmond, which invested $15,000 in a “Blue Hippo” light display to help promote Route 66 and its vital ties to Edmond. “It’s healthier and more engaging, and there are more displays and more programming every year.”
“To me, it’s more beneficial for families,” said Janet Yowell, Executive Director of EEDA, which also invested in a large display as Luminance began to grow in 2018. “They’re getting out of the car, walking around, playing on the playground – and then maybe going out to get something to eat or shop in Edmond afterward, which benefits the community.”
That’s no small part of the importance of Luminance for Edmond. While the aesthetic appeal is obvious –the economic impact of the extended event is significant.
Studies done by EEDA show the local economic impact in 2019 topped $3 million. That number grew to nearly $6.7 million in 2020 and nearly $7.7 million in 2021.
“The economic impact over the last couple of years shows that it has generated quite a bit of money for the local economy,” Yowell said. “Obviously, the fact that it is an ongoing event, compared to a single day, one- or two-hour event plays a big role in that. It’s an investment that is absolutely paying back.”
“There’s a full-circle economic impact,” Thornton said. “We call it the second experience – people come here for a reason, to visit family or go on an outing, and they come to experience Luminance. That opens the door to seeing all that Edmond has to offer and they may see something they didn’t expect. Now the wheels are turning, and they start thinking that Edmond might be a great place to live or open a business.”
Returning to Luminance this year, visitors can shop at Merry Marketplace, which is open 4 to 8 p.m. on the Nov. 17 opening night. Opening ceremonies include a choir performance, dance performances and a drone show, as well as the traditional lighting of the park. On top of that, there are food trucks, crafts, an ice-skating rink and Santa and friends available for photos.
Which is to say, Luminance has come a long way from humble beginnings.
“I think it will only continue to grow,” Jordan said. “As far as the event goes, there still is plenty of room at Mitch Park to add more displays, and as we continue to add more programming and more attractions, I have no doubt the popularity and attendance will continue to grow.”
All of which means Luminance can only get brighter.
Learn more about Luminance at EdmondLights.com.