RACINE — For the second straight year, the waterfall centerpiece to the annual Kiwanis Holiday Lights will be missing from the display.
The group, however, has closed its fundraising gap on the project, has begun construction on a new display and expects to have things up and running for next year, according to Jim Chaplin, vice president of the Kiwanis Holiday Lights Foundation.
“It has to be up there,” Chaplin said. “We were hoping it was going to be up this year but we didn’t have enough funding to get it all done.”
Prior to last year, the group had been maintaining the waterfall from the original Wheary Lights collection that went on display annually at the Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St.
But with weathering and general wear and tear on the old waterfall leading to mounting repair costs, the Kiwanis made the decision to build a replacement waterfall.
In order to do so, however, they needed to raise approximately $17,000 to pay for the project.
With help from local industry, private donors and money from local Kiwanis clubs, the group has begun making progress.
Construction on the new aluminum waterfall framework is nearing completion at Metzger Metal Fabricators.
“The big part is getting the fabrication done,” Chaplin said. “And then it needs to be lit.”
In order to pay for lighting, the Kiwanis made the decision to dip into their principal investment, the interest off of which was used to pay for repairs in previous years, a decision Chaplin called a difficult one.
And now, with the major aspects of the project paid for, only a small funding gap remains, Chaplin said, needed to pay for the computer system and circuit board that run the light show as well as waterproof housing for the electronics.
But even with that funding, he said, there is no possibility of getting the project up in time for this year because of the hundreds of hours of “tedious” work required to lay the over 100 rows of lights onto the new framework.
The rest of this year’s light show went up on Nov. 3. When asked if he expects the new waterfall to join the 2013 light show, Chaplin said “absolutely,” and that work to lay lights on the new framework is set to begin in late spring, early summer.
The Wheary Lights began as a wedding anniversary gift from George Wheary to his wife, Jessie Mae; in the early 1960s, George Wheary began displaying white holiday light displays of angels, the moon and constellations, just to name a few, at his North Bay home, attracting a parade of cars packed with eager onlookers.
In 1982, Wheary donated the lights to the city and the display was showcased on Monument Square until the Kiwanis clubs took over and in 1985 moved the display to the zoo.
Despite the lack of its centerpiece for the second year, the show goes on. This is the display’s 28th year at the zoo, and the theme is kringle.