2017 “Celebrate the Light of the World” in the Willmar Lakes Area

By Bailey Hovland
December 2017

Out in the Minnesota countryside, a haze of light glows in the distance. Traveling along County Road 9, the light becomes brighter, more defined. You finally pull over the crew of the hill, and a breathtaking scene sits before you. Hundreds of thousands of lights flash across the prairie, rhythmically flickering to their own unique beat. Tune the radio station to 88.7 FM and the scene will come alive, dancing vibrantly along to the music. Welcome to “Celebrate the Light of the World,” in the Willmar Lakes Area.


The scene is lit (in both senses of the word), showcasing towering Christmas trees, individual holiday-themed displays, and an ice rink for the whole family to enjoy.

The award-winning, charity-giving, heart-filling light show is now open for their last year out at the Koosman residence in Willmar. Last year, WCCO featured “Celebrate the Light of the World” as the winner of their viewers’ choice for best Christmas lights in Minnesota, and although we might be biased, we could not agree more. This impressive display began as a bell-ringing competition between Chad Koosman and the Salvation Army’s best ringer. To get an advantage on his opponent, Koosman created an astonishing display outside of his house with 100,000 lights. In his first year, Koosman raised $800. Last year, he took $164,000 to The Salvation Army from the light show. That brings his total contributions to the chart a total of $549,000, all due to the great success of “Celebrate the Light.” And with that success came national recognition due to ABC’s feature of “Celebrate the Light” on its holiday special “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”


Entering warp speed, captain! Or maybe just the tunnel of lights at “Celebrate the Light.” Either way, we’re in for an entertaining ride.


Under a dazzling tunnel of light, pulsing to the rhythm of “Wizards in Winter” (an instrumental holiday song that mixes metal with rock) you enter the light show. Following the driveway, you can travel through the show and immerse yourself in the lights, exploring every facet of “Celebrate the Light” from the warmth of your own car. Off to the right on your way in, you can also pull into a parking lot and watch the brilliant spectacle move from one song to the next, listening to classic holiday tunes like “Carol of the Bells” and upbeat songs like ”Music Box Dancer.” Atop the hill is a gigantic electric tree surrounded by an ice rink open to skaters (weather permitting), and towards the front of the parking lot you can take advantage of the festive décor and have a photo op in front of an adorable miniature house. Who knows, maybe it belongs to a jolly old fellow preparing presents for good children on Christmas Eve.


A lighted miniature house makes for the perfect background to your photo!

The light show goes from 4:30-11:00 p.m. daily, running from Thanksgiving to January 7th. Special exceptions include, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when “Celebrate the Light” will run all night. And on December 9th, you can come visit Santa’s Den for photographs with Jessica Ann Photography, owned by Jessica Wallentine of Raymond. The light show and special events, like the pictures with Santa, are all free but the Salvation Army will be accepting donations to continue the original mission of Koosman.

Although the light show won’t be at the Koosman house next year, there are already talks about where to move “Celebrate the Light” in the city of Willmar so that the area can continue its tradition of giving during the holiday season. Even so, come and take advantage of this incredible feat of holiday spirit this year. It’ll be the last time to experience “Celebrate the Light” where it all began—on the front yard of a local man who ventured outside the box to give more back to the community during the most wonderful time of year.

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