Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Blue Jacket’s Fantasy of Lights keeps glowing — and growing

Popular event offers 140 displays of lights


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 24, 2021

The Fantasy of Lights was launched in Franke Park in 1995 by Anthony Wayne Services, which became Benchmark Human Services in 2015.

That was the year Blue Jacket Inc. took over the Fantasy of Lights.

Blue Jacket helps people overcome barriers to gainful employment. The Fantasy of Lights is a major fundraiser for the organization.

More and More Lights

This popular Christmas event has grown quite a bit in the last six years.

“When we took over, there were 70 displays,” said Blue Jacket’s director of marketing Brad Saleik. “Now, we are right around 140.”

Local organizations and individuals who want to sponsor displays are never hard to find, he said.

“We get phone calls all year long,” Saleik said. “We don’t have to do a lot of solicitation for people to build displays. This is something people want to be a part of.”

Unlike the Embassy Theatre’s Festival of Trees, which features newly decorated trees every year, the Fantasy of Lights features a mixture of new and classic displays.

Saleik said the very first display ever built, one created by the AWS Foundation, is still part of the Fantasy of Lights.

Participants Big and Small

One of the gratifying aspects of the event for Saleik is the variety of participants and their varied reasons for participation.

“We probably have upwards of 20 displays that are ‘in loving memory’ of someone,” he said. “The cool part of that is, when you’re driving the route, you see a big company and a medium-sized company and then you see, ‘In loving memory of Rachel,’ who just loved her Grinch display. The Grinch was her daughter’s favorite display.”

It’s just like the make-up of a Blue Jacket classroom, he said.

“You have all these people, big and small, right next to each other on this route,” Saleik said.

The Fantasy of Lights was marred a bit this year by two instances of vandalism.

“Angry? Yeah. This is such a huge undertaking,” Saleik said. “Just keeping on schedule is difficult enough.”

The organizers of the event don’t want sympathy, he said. They want grace.

“We want folks to know we are working as hard as we can to get this fixed,” Saleik said.

Come to the Village

A new addition to the Fantasy of Lights, introduced last year, has returned in 2021 — the Christmas Village.

It is an open-air Christmas market of the sort one sees throughout Germany at this time of year.

“It’s kind of a walking path,” Saleik said. “Where everything else is drive-through, this is a walk-through event.”

The Christmas Village will consist of 22 vendors this year, he said.

“We call it ‘the sights, the sounds, and the smells of Christmas,’” Saleik said. “We will do everything we can to give you a North Pole Christmas experience.”

The Christmas Village happens Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 2-5, Dec. 9-12, and Dec. 16-19.

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