Season opener: Bentleyville switches the holiday spirit on

Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 11:41 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2021 at 11:50 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) -- For many Northlanders, attending the annual Bentleyville Tour of Lights brings out their holiday spirit. But for the Wimpfheimer family, it also brings out their competitive spirit.

“So it’s a family tradition for us to come up to Bentleyville every year, and it’s my kids’ goal to be number one. So this year, we’re number one again,” said Pete Wimpfheimer of Ramsey, MN.

Normally, when they come to see the lights, it’s on Black Friday and they try to be the first car of the day.

This year, they were even more ambitious.

“We’re the first car of the entire season because it’s opening night,” said Wimpfheimer.

“I like the cool lights, and how you can almost compete to get to Santa first and get a special hat every year,” said McKenzie and Madi, Wimpfheimer’s daughters.

Seeing Santa at Bentleyville is a yearly tradition for many children, made possible by an army of volunteers.

Starting in September, hundreds of volunteers spend their weekends setting up lights and displays, but some start even earlier.

“Actually my husband and I started working in the spring, painting,” said Margy Fraboni, a long-time Bentleyville volunteer.

She paints Bentleyville favorites like the cookie house and the popcorn factory.

“I think it brings the community together, it’s something fun and everybody likes Christmas lights,” said Fraboni.

And for many, seeing those lights turn on signifies the beginning of the holiday season.

This year Bentleyville is back to its traditional walk-through version after becoming a drive-through attraction last year due to the pandemic.

But even that didn’t deter the Wimpfheimer’s.

“We were the second car in line for the drive-through one,” said Wimpfheimer.

This year McKenzie and Madi had one goal in mind: “Run to Santa,” said McKenzie and Madi.

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