ALTON -- A Gang of Grandpas won’t be stopped by a Grinch who tried to ruin their traditional holiday display.
For more than two decades, a group of retired volunteers has put together the annual Christmas Wonderland light display at Rock Spring Park in Alton, Illinois. The volunteers, who call themselves the Grandpa Gang, spend weeks hanging millions of lights that draw tens of thousands of visitors every year.
“I think our community enjoys it but we like to put it on for them,” said one grandpa, and Christmas Wonderland board member, Al Cowgill.
On Tuesday morning, the grandpas arrived at the park and couldn’t get some of the lights to turn on. They started checking power sources when they discovered something missing.
“Some guys went up to the top of the hill to open up the trailers, and they were already open,” Cowgill said. “I had gone down through the bottom of the park, I was going to start checking lights that we'd already installed and try to turn them on and some of them didn’t work. So we looked around and there were a lot of wires gone.”
He added, “We have sub-areas from supply boxes that we distribute power to the boxes, and some of these sub boxes were stripped of wiring.”
Cowgill said about 2,500 feet of wiring went missing, which cost the Grandpas a few hundred dollars to replace and time lost on the job. Cowgill said, sadly, this happens nearly every year.
“You almost have to laugh about it sometimes. The only other two things you can do is cry or get mad and I don’t want to do either one of those,” he said. “This is Christmas season so, we’ll just keep it going.”
Alton Police are investigating the theft, and Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons said he will add more patrols in the park during the holiday season.
For the Grandpas, the Christmas Wonderland is a tradition too beloved to let a Grinch ruin it.
“I hope the people who took our wires, that they have a Merry Christmas,” Cowgill said.
Rock Spring Park’s annual Christmas Wonderland opens to the public the day after Thanksgiving. This year, it will feature a new display of a manger, with the backdrop of Bethlehem. To read more about hours and admission costs visit Alton's website featuring the attraction.