The William S. Hart Regional Park held its inaugural Barnyard Lights Tour, inviting the community to its first Christmas-themed night event.
The event featured Santa with alpacas, barnyard tours, animal feeding opportunities, holiday lights and decorations. Instead of reindeer, alpacas helped out Santa Claus, according to Park Superintendent Eric Reifman.
“We never do any barnyard tours at night,” Reifman said, “So we asked, ‘Why don’t we do something during Christmastime?’”
The challenges for planning the event were issues with Christmas lights not working or having electricity supply issues, but those were quickly resolved.
The Friends of Hart Park purchased all the Christmas lights for the barnyard tour. The organization is a community of individuals who volunteer their time and efforts to support the museum facilities, raise funds to help maintain the mansion, care for animals in the park and restore artworks.
Additionally, volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contributed to the placing of lights and decorations.
At the event, there were 10 staff and volunteers to manage the festivities throughout the day. Guests were able to pet the alpacas, watch the pigs do tricks and enjoy photo opportunities with Santa, according to Reifman.
Reifman said the event was well-received by families and attendance was estimated at 400 to 500 guests.
For Reifman, the barnyard event allows people to escape reality for a while and just celebrate the holidays with their families.
“I want children to have a place to come, see the animals, be safe and know that Hart Park is here for them,” Reifman said. “They can come out anytime and just have a good time.”
Tyrone Ramirez, Hart Park’s ground maintenance worker, participated in creating the children’s visits with Santa.
The turnout from the community has been impressive, and many were surprised that the families wanted to see lights and take a picture with Santa, according to Ramirez.
“While we’re here, let’s just spread some love and joy, come together as a community and take care of one another,” Ramirez said.
There were no significant concerns because the animals are used to people but also can seclude themselves in their enclosures. Park animal keeper Rachael Komulainen was excited to let the community see how the barnyard animals interact at night.
“This is our first year doing this, and we’ve had a tremendous turnout,” Komulainen said. “We’re very happy with it.”
Komulainen said that since the turnout was well-received by the community, there are plans to do a follow-up nighttime lights event again.
“We just told everyone to stay tuned if they want to come and see the lights one more time before they come down,” Komulainen said.
Drew Shackleford, a parent of two daughters, was excited to take his family to the barnyard lights tour. He said it was great timing since the community can emerge from their homes and leave their isolation.
“It’s not quite like pre-pandemic, but it’s a nice kind of new beginning,” Shackleford said. “It’s kind of reintroducing ourselves to each other and It’s a lot of fun.”
For Shackleford, the alpacas and Santa were a hit with his family, and he looks forward to future events. He also thanked Ramirez, Komulainen, Reifman, and the volunteers who continuously make Hart Park a home for the community and all their hard work producing the events.
“I’d like to thank Eric Reifman for helping get this set up,” Shackleford said. “His team does a great job every year, and it’s a lot of fun.”