When it comes to traveling, we’re all storytellers. There are parts of any adventure that we love to recount and pass along to our family and friends. To celebrate those tales, we have started a new campaign in 2022 called ‘What’s Your Story?’ It’s an opportunity for those who have visited our region to share their memories, and hopefully entice readers to experience southern Illinois as well! The following story out of Perry County comes to us from Connie S. Reed, also known as The Midwest Wanderer.
Nothing puts me into the holiday spirit better than festive, twinkling lights. Add a holiday fair to the lights, complete with carolers, Christmas trees, and gingerbread houses, and my Christmas spirit rivals that of little ones eager for a visit from Santa. That’s exactly what happened when we visited the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair.
Every December my husband and I set aside a weekend to “see the lights.” We often make it an overnight getaway and add an additional holiday-related event to our itinerary. When we learned about the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair, we saw that the drive-through lights event runs from Thanksgiving through late December. In addition, an indoor festival takes place the first three full December weekends. We were thrilled that we were able to schedule our visit on one of those three weekends.
When we arrived at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, we joined the parade of vehicles traveling slowly through the three-mile long drive-through lights experience. Millions of twinkling lights illuminate holiday-themed shapes: a Christmas train, Santa on a fire engine, and a horse-drawn wagon, among them. A dragon wearing a Santa hat reflected in the lake as we drove around the water, doubling the glowing image. I oohed and aahed all the way through the route.
When we finished traveling through the drive-through lights experience, we parked our car and headed into the Expo Center, which was also decked out in twinkling lights. Honestly, we thought we’d go in for some light refreshments and see Santa, and we’d be done. Were we ever in for a surprise!
The Expo Hall’s 20,000 square feet of space was filled with dazzling Christmas trees, lights strung from the ceiling, and a model train layout. Kids boarded a mini train for a ride around an oval track. How I wished I could fit in those train cars!
Over 45 artisans and crafters displayed items for sale, some of them prewrapped for gift giving. Shimmering handmade jewelry tempted me, and beautiful hand-sewn doll clothes transported me back to my childhood. And then I saw the balloon artist! I hadn’t seen a balloon artist in years, but there he was, twisting and shaping balloons into animal and flower sculptures. So fun to watch!
We had skipped dinner and were getting hungry, so we made our way over to where they were serving food. I saw chicken and dumplings on the menu, one of my favorite dishes. However, we were a tad too late. Not surprisingly, they had sold out of the chicken and dumplings. Instead, we both chose a pork chop sandwich. Moist and with just the right amount of spice, the sandwich was an excellent alternative.
Although we had pretty much covered the entire fair, we couldn’t leave yet. You see, vendors donate prizes, and they hold a drawing every hour. We didn’t want to possibly lose out, so we stayed until the last drawing at 9 p.m.
While waiting, we decided to indulge in dessert and chose a big slice of blueberry pie to share. We found a place to sit and savor our pie while taking in the evening’s entertainment, a gal strumming her guitar and singing Christmas tunes, putting us further into the holiday spirit.
We didn’t win a prize that night from the drawing, but we still came away winners. We had a fabulous time—way beyond only the drive-through lights that we had originally planned on.
To read about more rural adventures from Connie, visit her website at midwestwanderer.com. If you have a story from our region you would like to share with us, we’d love to hear it! Please email us at email@example.com.
This article comes from the 2022 edition of the Holiday Tourism Times. To request your free guide to seasonal fun, visit our Tourism Times page.