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      Keokuk's City of Christmas celebrates 25 years

      A million lights, hundreds of pieces, and dozens of stories behind them - it's not the holiday season in Keokuk until the City of Christmas comes to Rand Park.

      A million lights, hundreds of pieces, and dozens of stories behind them - it's not the holiday season in Keokuk until the City of Christmas comes to Rand Park.

      Now in its 25th year, the holiday light display is open to the public every night until December 27th.

      "I don't think it's something we thought about at the beginning, that it would ever last this long," City of Christmas Treasurer Jean Meyer said.

      What began in 1989 has now become a spectacle viewed by thousands of cars from all 50 states. Organizers expect about 20,000 cars to pass through this holiday season.

      "When we see the joy it does bring to people, we are so thrilled that we've been able to keep going," Meyer said.

      Once the sun sets on Rand Park, the city comes to life. The displays occupy almost half of the acreage in Rand Park - and some displays are so bright, they can be seen from across the river in Illinois.

      There are traditional scenes, like a 40-foot crimson Christmas tree. Others are more intricate, like the motorized duck-painting factory fashioned from an old industrial freezer. There's even a mailbox where kids can drop off their letters to Santa Claus.

      The City of Christmas also comes with two added bonuses. One, it's free to the public, but monetary donations are welcome.

      "Whether you've got a dollar to throw in the donation barrel or not, we don't care. We want you to come and enjoy the spirit of Christmas with us," Meyer said.

      And two, just about everything you see was built by hand in Keokuk. Displays that would normally cost thousands of dollars are created every year.

      Volunteers have made all of it possible, and they're always thinking up new creations.

      Even though the city is stored away 11 months of the year, the holiday season is never that far away.

      "The minute it comes down at the end of December, by January 1st they're thinking of the next year," Meyer said.

      The City is open to the public every night at 5 p.m. until December 27th.

      For more information, contact (319) 524-1127 or visit www.cityofchristmas.org.