VALORIE EVERSOLE - Daily Union Reporter
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
They came for the lights and stayed to enjoy what Shelbyville had to offer.
The annual Festival of Lights was a boost to local businesses with visitors staying to eat and shop in Shelbyville.
“I think with the media coverage the Festival got the exposure,” said committee chairman Tad Mayhall.
Mayhall said the Festival brought over 5,000 vehicles through the six-week light show. Two area television stations broadcast features about the Festival of Lights which Mayhall attributes to the increase in visitors.
Visitors came from communities such as Jacksonville, Shatham, Springfield, Champaign, and Chicago.
Not only did businesses benefit from the Festival, but also the entrepreneurship class at Shelbyville High School saw an increase in orders for their welded trees and other side decorations.
“The cooperation with the students’ partnership is great. It helps both projects,” Mayhall said.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids with a real hands-on business,” said Shelbyville High School business teacher John Tynan.
The entrepreneurship and welding classes have combined to build and sell welded Christmas trees over the past three years. According to Tynan, they have sold about 300 trees over the past few years and already have orders for 50 more. This year they have expanded to build gift boxes to accompany the trees. Next year they plan to include stars.
“The community support has been overwhelming.” Tynan said. He especially acknowledges the Festival of Lights committee for helping the students in the endeavor.
Money from the Festival donations have not only gone toward the upkeep and expansion of the lights, but also have gone to increasing the program at the school, such as helping to buy new welding equipment and giving the class real capital to start a real business.
“It’s an experience given to the kids. If we can organically grow local business, we can retain the students,” Mayhall said.
Volunteers are needed to help take down the lights displays.
“Just show up at the park maintenance building after 9 a.m. to help. Bill (Bly) is always looking for extra hands,” Mayhall said.