The bright, giant pirate ship, rows of sunny daffodils and cherry-red tulips, and waves of twinkling elves are just a few shining displays Bates Technical College has contributed to Fantasy Lights over the past 21 years, quickly becoming a treasured tradition.

As the college celebrates its 75th year of providing quality education to our community and beyond, we honor our strong partnership with local organizations like Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park. Valued collaborations like this help students gain real-world learning experiences for which the college is known.

“Our relationship with Pierce County Parks and Recreation has yielded countless hands-on learning opportunities for our students, who are becoming experts in their craft,” said Rick Huston, the college’s Welding program instructor. “Students take a great deal of pride in their work, and are always excited to watch their illuminated project set in motion at the park for their families and others to enjoy,” he added.

Since Fantasy Light’s first switched on the holiday lights in 1995, Bates has built an estimated 50 displays still in use. Counting the dazzling Bates-built scenes and figures in the park will keep you busy. Scores of our students’ work are found around each bend of the 2.2-mile drive-through event.

This year, the college’s contribution does not disappoint. A handful of welding students crafted a gigantic smiling pup, wrapped in classic holiday lights, joyfully wagging his tail. The dog, reminiscent of Clifford the Big Red Dog, will welcome visitors as they drive into the park.

Each year, the ideas for the displays come to Bates’ Welding program in the form of sketches from Pierce County Parks and Recreation. Students create metal frames to fit the design of the project. This year, Amanda Cline and Hanna Johnson, Technical High School students also enrolled in the Welding program, carefully planned and laid out the steel rods to match the design. From there, 5th quarter student Ian Armstrong welded the pieces together to form the framework.

Electrical Equipment and Biomedical Equipment Repair program students affix tiny lights to the displays.
Electrical Equipment and Biomedical Equipment Repair program students affix tiny lights to the displays.

In early November, with the display finished, students in the truck driving program transport it to Spanaway Park for painting. Next, about 40 students enrolled in electronics from either the Biomedical Service Technician: Clinical Engineering or the Electronic Equipment Service Technician programs wire the display with strings of lights that bring life and movement to the twinkling tail-wagger.

Creative holiday scenes coupled with strong community partners makes Fantasy Lights a truly unique and festive experience—one that has become a tradition for many, and a cherished relationship for the college.

“We are proud of our long partnership with Pierce County Parks and Recreation,” said President Ron Langrell. “Our annual participation is a shining example of our community involvement with neighborhood partners. Fantasy Lights is a fun and rewarding tradition for our students and employees, and we look forward to being a part of it each holiday season,” he said.

Celebrate Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park Thursday, Nov. 26 until New Year’s Day. The event is open nightly 5:30-9 p.m. Vehicle admission is $14. Call 253.798.3330 or visit www.piercecountywa.org/parks for more information.

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