20th Anniversary for Lake of Lights

Lake of Lights started in 2003 through the collaboration of City and Community Leaders and Civic Organizations. The community was asked to donate Christmas decorations and lights, which were then displayed at France Lake/Saulisberry Park for a drive-through Christmas experience. Many businesses donated materials and money to make the first Lake of Lights event a successful adventure. Displays were put up by many different Community Organizations for everyone’s enjoyment. The second year was successful again, but Community Members were not interested in continuing the time and energy commitment to keep the event going.

When community interest waned, the Kenton High School J.R.O.T.C. stepped up to take over the set-up and operation of the Lake of Lights event. The local cadets set up and ran the event, using the funds raised to help pay for their activities during the year. The J.R.O.T.C. ran the event for three years, adding to the lights and maintaining the displays, before finally giving it up in 2008. That would've been the end of the Lake of Lights, but in September of 2008, Steve Hiller took over the Lake of Lights. He advertised for, and organized a small group of volunteer helpers to continue the event. They started working in October, checking lights and displays to see what worked and what needed work. There was a pile of dead Christmas light strings that filled 8 trash bags! After sorting through all the lights and displays, the monumental task of planning the event route and what to put where began. Recruiting more volunteers also began in earnest. Steve came up with the plan to credit volunteers on a share of the gate profits for every three hours of volunteer work they donated to the event. The money earned was then donated to the charity or nonprofit organization of the volunteer’s choice. This continues to be the process, and last year, 2022, Lake of Lights gave back to community churches, youth organizations, and charities over $8,000.

In 2015 Lake of Lights officially became incorporated and classified as a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Prior to that they had operated under the umbrella of Steve Hiller’s 501(c)(3) publishing company. They currently have a board of directors consisting of 12 people, and committee members that help with the set-up, operation, and tear-down of the annual event, along with volunteers. It takes around 800 to 900 man hours to put all the displays together and string the lights through the park. 

Throughout the years, the Kenton community has continued to be very supportive of the Lake of Lights. Many businesses donate funds to help improve the attraction each year. In 2019, Lake of Lights was hit by lightning and about ¾ of the lights and displays were damaged by the strike. The community rallied and Lake of Light was ablaze again within two days! The generosity of this community and surrounding area is truly amazing. The City of Kenton generously permits the use of the ground each year, and keeps the park maintained. In 2021 the board of directors began a building drive to fund a new building at the park, and by 2022 all of our displays were able to be stored in the new building, instead of in three different locations around town. Lake of Lights has truly been blessed by this community.

Lake of Lights has continued to grow and expand with new displays and more lights. They have designed and developed tunnels, light trees, simple light displays, and fixtures. They've also purchased LED displays that move, added road lights to light the pathway, began broadcasting holiday music on the radio, and used different ways to advertise the Lake of Lights event. Over the years thousands of new lights have been added and they've converted to using LED lighting almost exclusively, saving energy and costs. The current pathway through the park covers 7 tenths of a mile from the beginning gate to the end of the display on the road to the airport. In it's entirety, there is close to half a million lights!

Special activities are held on the weekends including train rides and horse-drawn wagon rides through the park, live Nativities, and costumed characters to wave and interact with the visitors as they drive through the park. New this year are the school mascot displays that each county school designed and created. Over the years Lake of Lights has not raised prices because they want to keep it affordable for everyone.  Admission is only a $5.00 donation at the gate, and they have gift cards available for purchase.

Let's celebrate the 20th Anniversary of The Lake of Lights. Visit, donate, enjoy, and let's make it the biggest best year yet!

Lake of Lights, located at 
Saulisberry Park just outside of Kenton on State Route 67 West. One of seventy stops listed on the Ohio Holiday Light Trail