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Michael Zuelzke assembles a display in preparation for the Festival of Lights at River Forks Park in Roseburg on Friday. The Festival of Lights opens Sunday and runs through Jan. 1.

Senior Staff Writer

The annual Umpqua Valley Festival of Lights opens Sunday, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things will be a bit different this year.

Tickets must be purchased online in advance of a drive through the light displays, and visitors will have to remain in their cars with the windows rolled up.

“We decided very early on that we needed to try to have the very highest standards possible in order to make sure that we can still have the event,” said organizer Brian Prawitz.

They modeled this year’s procedure on Wildlife Safari, which has successfully maintained its drive-thru visits, he said.

All the event sponsors were supportive of continuing the festival this year with the changes, he said.

The sponsors’ response was that “it’s more important that we have the festival this year than it ever has been, and we should make it as big and spectacular as possible,” he said.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 cars visit the displays each year, and Prawitz said he’s expecting an even bigger turnout this year because of its safe entertainment.

The holiday village with Santa Claus, princesses and Star Wars characters won’t be open this year, but there are still about 90 displays and a half million lights to enjoy.

One display is based on the “Frozen” movies and was given a green light by Disney. Others feature tributes to the Umpqua Valley.

“I’m always tickled when I see a tip of the hat to the wineries and fishing and dunes and that kind of thing,” Prawitz said.

The event is put on by the Roseburg Rotary and was “fathered” by Kerwin Doughton, who has largely retired from the event this year. The money raised goes toward scholarships and Rotary projects.

Prawitz said it takes a lot of work to put together, and crews start working on the event in September. But it’s worth it.

“I hope it brings some joy to people because we definitely need it,” he said.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Sunday and continues nightly through Jan. 1. Times are from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

For tickets and additional information, visit uvfestivaloflights.com. Tickets are $10 per car.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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