Rotary Winter Wonderland has kicked off its 13th season in Marshfield, opening the day after Thanksgiving.
“We are off to a good start! There was a steady stream of visitors throughout the weekend despite the rainy conditions,” said Al Nystrom, Operations and Finance Chair.
Visitors donated 4,000 items of food through Sunday. Though rain caused technical glitches, crews had everything working again by Saturday night.
“The feedback has been extremely positive, especially regarding our new Central Display. This is, by far, our most impressive light show,” Nystrom said. The animated display was programmed once again by beginning programmers at Marshfield High School and features a new hourglass-shaped showpiece.
“Our new central display, which took many volunteer hours to erect, will give you an amazing display of lights and music,” said Phil Phillips, co-chairman. “We are proud of our Rotary Winter Wonderland display and hope it brings many visitors to Marshfield.”
Over 1,000 volunteers volunteers helped set up the light display in November, and fifty-five organizations will volunteer their time this season to collect food and other donations at the gates. Their dedication showcases the spirit and character of the community, Nystrom said.
“Community groups and individual volunteers are the heart and soul of this project. There are more than 1,300 volunteer needs over the course of a season, and there is not a single paid employee,” he said. “Our volunteers come from all walks of life, working side by side to create a great gift for our community.”
“We started a new group of retirees called the ELVES that gave us major help in putting up the heavy displays,” said Phillips. Additional good help also came from Altrusa Club, Boy Scouts, 4H clubs, and many school groups.
The collection goal for the project is typically about 50,000 each year and benefits 29 area food pantries. If successful in reaching that amount, Rotary will surpass 600,000 food items since its first year in 2006.
“The donations that come in through Winter Wonderland are a lifeline for us at this time of the year,” Cheryl Lewis Hartl, Soup or Socks Director. “Our stock is getting low by early November, and the next drives are not until spring, when the Boy Scouts and Postal Workers run collections.”
Soup or Socks enjoys volunteering a night to help collect the items that will directly benefit them. The pantry’s greatest needs currently include saltine crackers, dried soup, canned fruit, and cold cereal. Additionally, donations of personal care products like shampoo, bath soap, dish soap and toothpaste and toothbrushes are helpful.
Rotary Winter Wonderland is open from 5-9 p.m. every night at Wildwood Zoo. Admission is free, but donations of unexpired food help fulfill the project’s mission.
“We could not serve the people the way we do without Rotary Winter Wonderland!” Lewis Hartl said.