Main Street Kansas: Beloit brightens up for holidays with annual lights

Main Street Kansas

BELOIT, Kan. (KSNW) – A small Kansas town is celebrating Christmas in a big way. Volunteers have set up a free drive-thru lights display that gets more elaborate each year.

The festive presentation is in Mitchell County in the town of Beloit — our next stop on Main Street Kansas.

If the happy glow of holiday lights at your home first come from a tangle of cords and burned out bulbs, imagine the challenge behind the Chautauqua Isle of Lights in Beloit that takes about six weeks to set up.

“Some of them are about 19 years old,” explained Barb Axtell, volunteer for Chautauqua Isle of Lights. “We do replace some every year.

Bob Severance is 91 years old and he started the whole thing 18 years ago.

“When we’re pushed for getting things done, people will say who’s dumb idea was this,” said Severance. “And I have to hold up my hand!”

Thousands of people showed up for the first year to see the light extravaganza.

“We ended up the first year having 54 kind of dinky little displays, and we had like 14,000 people show up that first year,” explained Severance.

Now, the isle has 260 light displays, with many of them designed and donated by someone in the community. Many others are a memorial for a loved one. One in particular is close to Bob’s heart. It’s a musical display dedicated to his late wife.

“She could play the flute,” added Severance. “My gosh, she was good.”

The city of Beloit generously provides the electricity for all of the lights, and last year the impressive spectacle brought in visitors from 39 states and nine countries, plus countless happy kids.

“Yea, they’re always sitting at the windows looking out,” said volunteer Caleb McJunkin.

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