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Copper Harbor prepares for Winter Wonderfest

Light display, fireworks set

December 3, 2012
By SCOTT VIAU - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

COPPER HARBOR - A blizzard of Christmas activities is planned for Copper Harbor's Winter Wonderfest on Saturday. Local artists and crafters will be part of the Christmas Marketplace. There will also be a bake sale, gift wrapping, refreshments and a light display in the park.

Don Kilpela of Isle Royale Ferries oversees the light display, which will consist of about 40,000 Christmas lights and have been put up with the help of local inmates.

Kilpela said he started putting the lights up as the result of a green Christmas about seven years ago that affected the local economy. Kilpela then did some research on Christmas light displays and discovered that some people will travel to see Christmas lights.

Article Photos

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette
Fireworks, a bonfire and Christmas lights were all a part of the fourth annual Christmas tree lighting and bonfire at Grant Township Park outside the community building in Copper Harbor in 2010. This year’s annual event is set for Saturday.

"I thought if we had a really nice Christmas light display that people might want to drive up to Copper Harbor," Kilpela said.

Kilpela is hoping to make his light display even bigger next year.

"The goal next year is that I'm going to try to get a million LED lights," Kilpela said.

He's also trying to make ornaments that can be hanged from the tree.

"I'm just trying to make it a little more creative, a little different," he said. "In the Copper Country it's the No. 1 light display. I try to make it more of an old-fashioned Christmas rather than being gaudy with flashing lights."

Kilpela said that, weather permitting, he is expecting about 100 people to show up. He also said he enjoys doing the event, as it cheers the town up.

"I get kudos from a lot of people," he said.

He added that this is a community effort as some of the funds to do this are provided by Copper Harbor.

Kilpela said he first received the help of the inmates during his second year of putting up the lights.

"Grant Township offered me the use of inmates," Kilpela said.

Since then, Kilpela has more often than not received their assistance.

"They really helped me," Kilpela said. "They're young kids, they do small crime. It's unbelievable. They really get into (the light display)."

Kilpela added the inmates have put in about 50 hours of work this year.

"They put up lights, they're hauling things," Kilpela said. "I wish other communities would use these guys for this purpose."



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