Aurora Festival of Lights

December 14, 2012

The 6th annual "Festival of Lights", the largest free outdoor display of holiday lights in Northern Illinois will is staged now -Dec. 26 at Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive in Aurora. (Entrance is off of Smith Blvd.) The family event has been expanded and includes over 1 mile of holiday-themed displays, many of which are animated. More than 40,000 lights make up the 40+ displays and 125 giant snowflakes hanging from trees in the park. The event is designed in a "drive-through" format where patrons view the festival from their vehicles.

Stories Behind the Pretty Pictures:

The festival is staged by the Rotary Club of Aurora in partnership with the City of Aurora. Although the event is free, goodwill offerings are accepted at the end of the 1 mile route which are donated to local charities. Over 45 organizations that address a variety of community needs have benefited from the Festival of Lights since its beginning in 2007. These organizations include those that serve the homeless, youth, seniors, domestic shelters, physically and developmentally challenged, and many others.

This year's expanded festival is thanks in part to a vocational welding class through Lake Land Community College at the Sheridan Correctional Center. Students in that class fabricated, welded, painted, and wired 100 giant snowflake light displays that measure 4X6 feet, and will be seen throughout the park. The Rotarians have intriguing stories of the feedback they received from the students who built the snowflakes and how the project made the students feel valued and bolstered their self-esteem.

Since the festival began, most of the displays have been updated with LED bulbs making them not only brighter, but burn 86 percent less electricity than regular light bulbs.

The festival takes several days to setup and tear down and is accomplished by dozens of volunteers broken into teams. Many of the volunteers have been working since the first festival and are not necessarily Rotarians.


The Festival of Lights was a dream of the City of Aurora. The project was undertaken by a new member committee from the Rotary club of Aurora in 2006 in response to a challenge from the Clubs board of directors to propose a new fund raiser. The first Festival opened the day after Thanksgiving in 2006 with displays rented and installed by an outside firm. Since that first opening the Rotary Club of Aurora has purchased some $300,000 in both static and animated displays and related equipment. In partnership with the City of Aurora, the Rotary Club, City staff and community volunteers put up and take down all of these displays - a savings of nearly $50,000 annually. Sponsorships allow us to continue to purchase new displays and maintain those in inventory. All but two of our displays are now comprised of LED bulbs which consume 87% less electricity and help us to grow the Festival. The festival is free to the public. The Rotary Club of Aurora does accept "free will donations" along the route. ALL donations collected are returned to local not-for-profit community organizations favoring those who help youth.


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