We are all comforted by traditions, especially those that are imbued with nostalgia for a hopeful, more innocent time. For our family, and many in the greater Detroit region, grabbing some hot cocoa and piling in the car for the Wayne County Lightfest at Hines Park on a wintry evening is such a tradition.
There is something quintessentially American about the Wayne County Lightfest, the combination of automobiles, family and friends, and appealing, yet low-tech holiday displays make this an heir to the days of cruising Hines Park, drive-in theatres, and small-town Christmas displays.
A word of caution, be sure to bring your patience when you are attending this event, especially on the weekend, as you will move slowly through the event. Although it only took us a little more than an hour on a recent visit to traverse the entire Lightfest, the first thirty minutes was in very slow moving traffic, just trying to get to the entrance. In a smart move to minimize traffic on Merriman Road, the staff has snaked the entrance longer in the park itself, but it means you actually move away from the entrance before turning and heading toward the entrance. There are a few lights to see as you progress, but I did observe a few folks driving aggressively in this stop and go traffic, trying to cut in an attempt to move one or two cars forward.
Relax, it's the holidays, crank up the tunes and belt out some carols, but please drive safely!
There are many favorites among the many whimsical displays- the Time Tunnel, the giant hypnotic Christmas tree, the bear diving into the jar of honey, all very enjoyable.
For those of us who have attended for many years, it's always fun to see if they've moved locations of the displays, or added any new ones. But like most traditions, part of the charm is that it has a familiar, timeless quality that roots us in something deep and lasting.
For a fee of only $5 per car, which goes to supporting the Wayne County Parks system, of which Hines Park is a shining jewel.
The Wayne County Lightfest runs now through December 31, from 7-10 during the week, and 6-10 on weekends. It is closed Christmas Day.