Christmas Wonderland sparkles once again
MARSHALL Cox has been involved in Toowoomba's Christmas Wonderland since it began in 2003, but it never ceases to inspire him.
For one thing, there are always new attractions to see, and you can never be quite sure how they will turn out until the lights are switched on.
But it's the generosity of the Toowoomba people and the excitement and delight on the children's faces which the Toowoomba West Lions Club project manager says make all the work worthwhile.
Although even at 70, he says, there's something magical about seeing all those thousands of sparkling lights.
The event has grown three-fold in just the nine years it has been at the Botanic Gardens. That means organisers get just one month off after the lights are turned off on Christmas Eve and come down after Christmas, before planning for the next year begins in February.
That is a mighty task indeed. Mr Cox said it took 3000 volunteer hours to set up the lights and another 3000 hours in planning throughout the year.
Then there's another 3000-odd hours for the 40 volunteers each night who ensure the event runs smoothly. A majority of those hours are put in by retirees and seniors like himself.
A new initiative this year is a park and ride for the last week leading up to Christmas eve, to ease parking problems. A free bus will run from the PCYC carpark to the gardens from 7-8.30pm.
And, if you haven't been yet, there is plenty to see, including a winter theme, a nursery rhyme area, an Australiana and an international-themed area, this year including a rotating globe, Eiffel Tower, a Dutch windmill and the London Eye. The only thing you won't see is Santa, because the event continues the original Burstow brothers' wish not to include any commercial aspect of Christmas, which is really pretty refreshing these days.
Instead, all funds raised from the gold coin donation go to Lifeline Darling Downs, the Toowoomba Hospice and Toowoomba Hospital Foundation, who in turn lend support to the event. Last year 80,000 people enjoyed the lights, raising $80,000.
"If not for the community spirit here, the event certainly wouldn't be of the magnitude that it is," Mr Cox said.
When: Until December 24, 7-10pm.
Venue: Botanical Gardens, Queens Park. Entry via Lindsay and Campbell Sts.
Cost: Gold coin donation.
Entertainment: Main stage plus roving entertainers, dance groups and costumed mascots. Donation tins for face-painting and balloon animals. Barbecue each evening and free ice-creams for children.