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Minnesota family's Christmas lights to be featured on TV show tonight

WILLMAR, Minn. - When it comes to the holidays, Chad Koosman lives by four words: Let there be light. Each year, Koosman, an irrigation contractor by trade, adorns his 7-acre property north of Willmar with a Christmas lights display that has to b...

WILLMAR, Minn. - When it comes to the holidays, Chad Koosman lives by four words: Let there be light.

Each year, Koosman, an irrigation contractor by trade, adorns his 7-acre property north of Willmar with a Christmas lights display that has to be seen to be believed.

Dubbed “Celebrate the Light of the World,” the proverbial winter wonderland features 450,000 bulbs, 7.5 miles of extension cords, 6-foot tall candy canes, horses, sleighs and a gingerbread house filled with edible goodies.

The scene has become a tradition for those in the Willmar area - attracting more than 40,000 people from Thanksgiving through the first week of January - and its growth in popularity since the first display eight years ago is garnering national attention.

Tonight, the Koosmans will be featured on “The Great Christmas Light Fight” on ABC.

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The third season of the holiday decorating competition features families and neighborhoods from across America decorating their homes to the extreme for Christmas. The competition boasts a total of $300,000 in prizes.

“It takes a crew of us to put this on,” Koosman said. “And this is an opportunity for us to thank everyone.”

For years the Koosman display has been used to raise money for The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign. Last year, $135,000 was raised through free will donations and a myriad of matching funds from Willmar-area businesses and others across the state, some of whom also sponsor the display. This year, Koosman hopes to raise $150,000, a far cry from the $800 raised in 2007, the first year of the display.

“The reality is we couldn’t do this without the public,” Koosman said. “This display is driven by the community and we’ve been able to grow the display as the donations have grown.”

One of numerous new additions to this year’s exhibition is a 36-foot-by-18-foot array of bulbs in the form of an American flag. It pays tribute, Koosman said, to current and former military personnel, and the 159 members of the Minnesota National Guard 682nd Engineering Battalion based in Willmar, who left in October for training in Texas as part of a nine-month deployment to Kuwait.

All told, the display takes Koosman and crews from his Turbo Turf Lawn Irrigation business more than a month to set up. Another 500 hours are logged by volunteers on site during the 40 nights of “Celebrate the Light of the World.”

So far, Koosman estimates some 20,000 people have viewed this year’s display.

The Koosman property is open to the public from 4:30-11 p.m. through Jan. 4, and is located at 3903 60th Ave. N.E. in Willmar, on the east side of Eagle Lake.

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The lights will run through the night Christmas Eve.

For more information, call Chad Koosman at 320-295-1411 or visit  www.celebratethelight.net .

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