Holiday illumination
This year, in conjunction with the annual Nature in Lights holiday light display at the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area at Fort Hood, Texas, the post's Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation is hosting a canned food drive to help support area food pantries. The five-and-a-half mile long display has been a holiday tradition for Fort Hood and its surrounding communities for more than a quarter of a century. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Nature in Lights opened to the public at the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area here, Nov. 11, and for the first time, the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation is hosting a food drive in conjunction with the popular holiday display.

Lisa Lorenz-Bass, program coordinator for the Fort Hood Outdoor Recreation Department, has been involved in all 26 years of Nature in Lights and is happy to welcome visitors to enjoy the five-and-a-half mile long display.

“One hundred-forty-three displays line the five-and-a-half mile route of lights, wrapping the park with a seemingly endless ribbon of holiday cheer,” Lorenz-Bass said. “Plus, displays illuminate and decorate the riding arena at BLORA Ranch and architectural and foliage lighting sparkles throughout the park.”

A spectacle as large as Nature in Lights requires tons of planning.

“Currently, designs for three years out are being planned and are in various stages of development. Specific themes, displays and route order are determined the December prior to the season they are used. Displays for the current season are built in-house and or refurbished and re-lamped January through April by BLORA’s very talented maintenance crew,” Lorenz-Bass explained. “Set-up begins early August, and the route continues being tweaked and fine-tuned until opening day. Displays are maintained nightly when Nature in Lights is open to ensure an optimum experience for all guests.”

There are various sections with different themes throughout the route, including the newest area called “Winter Whimsy.”

“New this season is a ‘Winter Whimsy’ theme, featuring a new computer-animated arch welcoming guests to view new displays in this winter wonderland, including ‘Furry Fox,’ “Sushi Anyone?,’ ‘Racing Reindeer,’ ‘Sledding Mouse’ and many more whimsical winter critters and characters,” Lorenz-Bass said. “The teamwork for putting on this show is an intricate collaboration of staff striving to balance the massive task of just getting it done on time (while also) making it special. The staff works tirelessly to ensure the event shines brightly opening night and reflects the true joy of the season throughout the duration of the seven-week program.”

Also new to Nature in Lights this year is the food drive. Dr. Peter Craig, Fort Hood DFMWR director, said those who work at BLORA had wanted to do a food drive in conjunction with Nature In Lights before, but never received permission to do it.

Nature in Lights
Nearly 30,000 cars drive through the Nature in Lights holiday display at the Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area at Fort Hood, Texas. This year, organizers are encouraging patrons to bring canned food items to help area food pantries in Central Texas. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I re-energized the idea and I went to some local food pantries to see if they were interested in participating,” Craig said. “I got four local food pantries … one in Belton, one in Salado, one in Killeen and … the Phantom Warrior Food Pantry. What we’re going to do is get food throughout the next 53 days of Nature in Lights and we’re going to distribute it around … to the different places so we can help replenish their food pantries.”

Lorenz-Bass is happy that the Nature in Lights display is bringing more than just holiday cheer to the community this year.

“BLORA is delighted to be a part of this worthwhile project initiated by the DFMWR director, Dr. Peter Craig, and encourages guests to support us in providing for our local food pantries,” she said.

Nearly 30,000 vehicles drive through the Nature in Lights display each year. Craig said this is a great opportunity for Fort Hood to give back to the communities that support the Great Place throughout the year.

“Nearly one in five people aren’t food secure in Bell County. If I can get one can of food from every one of those vehicles, we’re hoping to give 10,000 pounds worth of food directly back into the community,” Craig said.

For more information on Nature in Lights and admission fees, visit https://hood.armymwr.com/calendar/event/nature-lights/5746922/73501.