Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Covid Christmas

Lemon Park lights in Pratt were just what the "doctor" ordered.

Covid-19 has taken some of the "Ho, ho, ho!" out of the holiday season. But visiting the Lemon Park lights was a pandemic-approved activity.

For nearly 30 years, Pratt's Lemon Park has been transformed during the holiday season. The festive display wasn't part of my growing-up years on a farm north of Pratt (because I'm old!). However, when our kids were in middle school and high school sports, we often took a sashay through Lemon Park after December ballgames at Skyline.

This year, there was no annual Christmas in the Park to kick off the Lemon Park holiday season because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, coordinator Deb Goyen told The Pratt Tribune that more than 450 cars went through the park the first evening it was open.

As we inched our way through Lemon Park one evening last week, there were plenty of cars - and even a motorized bicycle - taking in the one-mile circuit.  (We did our part to boost participation: I think we drove through the park three times and then got out and walked in several locations for a closer view of some of the displays.)

Lucy & Schroeder were added to the display this year with a donation by Larrison Mortuary. Seems apt this year!

My memories of the park as a child were as a stop on our family's Memorial Day tour. It was where we met my Grandma and Grandpa Leonard and her sister, Helen (and Mike), for a picnic before our annual cemetery tour. 

The Lemon Park Lights Christmas tradition started in 1992, with 15 to 20 lighted Christmas displays, all the result of a Deb Goyen-idea approved by Lemon Park’s George Lemon. Today, the park becomes home to more than 150 whimsical, colorful displays.

The early merchants and Pratt business-owners who believed in the concept of a free, drive-through public light display included Stanion Electric, The Peoples Bank, Emprise Bank, City of Pratt, Wal-Mart and employees, Dillons, Lemon family, Pilot Club, Pratt Regional Medical Center, Dillons employees, First National Bank, Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, Kiwanis, Trand, Inc. and the PHS Class of 1932, Deb told The Tribune.

Pratt is known for its "Hot" and "Cold" water powers, so this was a nod to that claim to fame.

In 2020, more than 200 sponsors and supporters continue to support the Lemon Park Lights tradition, a free experience for those who wish to make the drive to Lemon Park or walk the lighted sidewalks after dark for the full effect.

A donation box is provided for those who wish to contribute to electrical and maintenance costs, but all labor to replace and replenish bulbs and set up the displays each year is done by volunteers.


The Lemon Park Lights are on for all to enjoy, every evening at dusk, along with The Twelve Days of Christmas lights at Sixth Street Park, from now until January 3 in Pratt.

Several of the displays were added as memorials to Prattans. One of the new displays this year honors Deb's dad, Carter Barker. (He was my Sunday School teacher at Pratt First United Methodist Church, so he was pretty special to me, too.)

The new display is a  replica of Carter's old Studebaker truck. (I also noticed the purple lights on a nearby evergreen tree. I'm sure that was by design as well. Carter was a big K-State fan.)

They added a farm scene in 1995 to reflect Pratt and the surrounding area as an agricultural community. I loved the cowboy and the Santa on a tractor in that area. 


Randy's favorite display was the dragon (or Loch Ness Monster) in the water.

 Every time we made a circuit of the park, it seemed someone was stopped there, taking a photo, so I guess he wasn't alone in his choice.

One of my favorites this year was the Peace on Earth display, maybe because we so desperately need it.

Another of my favorites has a family connection, but I didn't realize it until later, when I started checking out some of the history of the displays via Lemon Park Lights' Facebook page.

A relative - the late Charlie Neelly from Mullinville - built the arches, which were installed in Lemon Park in 1995.

Volunteer Ron Miller added the candy to the first arch several years later, and then computerized the display, making it different every time you travel through the Candy Cane Lane.

My email devotional yesterday morning made me think about the symbolism of those colorful lights packed into Lemon Park and how they are a perfect representation of Advent, this time of waiting in the Christian year - maybe even more so during this pandemic.

The prayer said this:

God, Thank you for what is just around the corner. 

In a season filled with the longest, darkest nights, 

I await the coming of the most beautiful Light.

If you are within driving distance to Pratt, I recommend the Lemon Park Lights for your holiday season, too.  


  1. "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas". A lovely way to spend the evening, but no Granddaughters.

    1. No, unfortunately. They got to see Zoo Lights at their Topeka Zoo last week, and they have plans to do a drive-through light display in Topeka. I wish we were closer so that we could do it with them. I told my daughter that I'd like to come to the zoo lights another year - hopefully, after the pandemic!