ALTON - Visitors flocked to Christmas Wonderland in Alton in record numbers during the 2020 holiday season and that success means the volunteer organization was able to increase its donations to local organizations.
Nearly $65,000 in donations has been distributed to 53 civic organizations courtesy of the Grandpa Gang and Christmas Wonderland, a direct result of strong holiday seasonal visitors to the landmark Alton attraction.
“We are so pleased with the financial support we received considering the unusual year we had with the pandemic,” Dick Alford, head grandpa of the Grandpa Gang said. “We had a lot of folks looking for any reason to get out of the house and they came to Christmas Wonderland. We had many people coming to see us for the first time.”
Christmas Wonderland, spearheaded by the volunteer Grandpa Gang, features more than 4 million lights strung throughout Rock Spring Park. This year due to the pandemic the Enchanted Forest and visits with Santa Claus were cancelled.
“The financial support we received in 2020 means we can help others in our surrounding communities and that is the true meaning of the holiday season,” Alford said.
Area organizations receiving financial donations from Christmas Wonderland include:
1st Presbyterian Church 4th & Alby
5A’s Animal Shelter
Alton Amphitheater Commission
Alton Boys & Girls Club
Alton Fireworks Committee
Alton Godfrey Kiwanis
Alton Godfrey Rotary Club
Alton High School Class of ‘64
Alton Juneteenth Committee
Alton Optimist Club
AMH White Cross
Pride, Inc./Gordon Moore Project
Backstoppers-Captain Jacob Ringering & Luke Warner
Bethalto Boys & Girls Club
Beverly Farms Foundation
Boy Scout Troop #101
Bright Hope Chapter E.S.
Crisis Food Center
Cub Scout Pack 3001
Dunbar Lodge 97
East Alton American Legion Scholarship Fund
East Alton Rotary
East End Improvement
GRWC Wood river Women’s Club
Gordon Moore Park Smith Fund
Grafton United Methodist Church
Hope Community Center
Land of Lincoln Honor Flights
Mississippi Valley Christian School
North Alton Godfrey Business Council
Oasis Women’s Center
Otter Creek Historical Society
Phi Tau Omega Society
Power of the Giraffe
Riverbend Animal Shelter
Riverbend Community Center
Riverbend Community Food Pantry
Senior Services Plus
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Vincent De Paul Society
TreeHouse Wildlife center
Wreaths Across America
Plans for the 2021 Christmas Wonderland season include the return of the Enchanted Forest and visits with Santa Claus, Alford noted.
The “Grandpa Gang”, a group of retirees and volunteers, organizes and designs the Christmas spectacular of cascading lights, tunnels and displays known as Christmas Wonderland. Each evening during the holiday season, the park sparkles against the night sky with millions of glistening lights, all hung by volunteers and the “gang.” Christmas Wonderland warms the hearts and helps families and friends capture the holiday spirit. Each year, the Grandpa Gang takes time to give back to the community with a portion of the attraction’s seasonal revenue donated to local charities.
Christmas Wonderland began as a grass roots movement when volunteers began decorating the entrance to Rock Spring Park for the holiday season in 1997. Those efforts evolved into Christmas Wonderland in 2003.
Volunteers are always needed to help with Christmas Wonderland projects. Volunteer informational meetings are held in August. The transformation of Rock Spring Park begins in September. Volunteers typically work three to five days a week from 8 a.m. to noon helping with tasks like setting up wooden displays and hanging lights throughout the park. To volunteer, contact Dick Alford at 618-781-2482.