EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Festival of Lights in East Peoria (FOLEPI) was recently named champion of the “Great Christmas Light Fight.” This year, the Winter Wonderland light display is breaking records in attendance and revenue, but official numbers will not be known until after the event wraps up.
The beloved community attraction is more popular than ever. Doug McCarty, Director of Tourism and Special Events for the city of East Peoria, said it is because it is active entertainment that the community craves.
“We’ve said this is the ultimate social-distanced event,” McCarty said.
About 15 years ago, the Fondulac Park District Police Department opened the light display on days it would normally be closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. On these days, the department keeps 50 percent of the festival revenue to aid the department.
“By allowing them to use our park, this is one way for them to give back to the department,” said Police Chief Mike Johnson.
This year, according to Johnson, they have raised $6 thousand so far. They plan to use the money for search and rescue equipment.
“It’s very important,” Johnson said. “We’re one of the only police agencies outside of the conservation police that’s certified to do water rescue.”
The rest of the festival revenue goes back into the festival. McCarty said next year, they hope to add a float or two and develop better traffic logistics. Some residents along Springfield Rd., where festival traffic backs up, have complained about the disturbance and inability to get to their residences.
“It’s good for the community, it’s good for the residents,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, it’s not so good for the folks that live directly on Springfield road, but we try to accommodate them as best we can, and our officers are really good about getting them in and out of their residences.”
The festival will continue through Jan. 3.