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Keokuk’s City of Christmas light show shines for 35th year

Will Buss

The holiday lights are back for another season in Keokuk.

In keeping with tradition, the annual City of Christmas light display opened at Rand Park on Thanksgiving night and will light up every night through the end of the year.

About 100 different individual light displays have been positioned and set up throughout the park, located near the Mississippi Riverfront.

Each display contains hundreds of individual white or colored LED lights of various illuminated images depicting Santa Claus and his reindeer, cartoon characters, and scenic landscapes, some of which are lit in flashing or blinking sequences against the night sky.

These luminous creations were made possible by numerous sponsors, businesses and individuals, located throughout the southeastern Iowa community.

They all follow the lead and example Joe Shuman has set.

For the past 23 years, Shuman has organized and led the annual light show in the park. He makes sure that the show goes on.

“I do enjoy It,” Shuman said. “It’s just the kids, you know, little kids, and the older people who love this stuff, you know.”

The life-long Keokuk native was first attracted to help with City of Christmas in 2000, when his brother was involved in setting up the lighting displays.

“My brother did it for years, for 18 years, before that,” he said. “And I just went by one day. I saw him trying to do it by himself, so I started to help him. And the next thing I knew, I’m caught.”

Shuman solicits help each year to get all the lights in place. He said about eight people helped him this year, including some from his own family.

“It's been a lot of people helping me,” he said. “My nieces, my nephews and my cousins and my sister, everybody's pretty much helped.”

This year marks the 35th year for City of Christmas. Shuman said 20,000 people visited and drove through the holiday light displays last year, some of whom hailed outside southeast Iowa, including visitors from as far away as Florida.

“People come from upper Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and we have people from Ohio who have been here,” he said.

Shuman said new light displays are added every year. He is already thinking ahead to next year.

“What can I do next?,” he said. “I’m always thinking about next year.”

City Christmas is open from 5 to 10 p.m. each night at Rand Park in Keokuk through New Year’s Day night. Admission is free, and donations are welcomed.

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