This Caledonia family turned their holiday light show into a children’s book

This Caledonia family turned their holiday light show into a children’s book

By Christina Lorey

December 5, 2023

Head 20 minutes south of Milwaukee for one of the state’s most dazzling holiday displays: The Wisconsin Christmas Carnival of Lights opened last week at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp Resort along Highway 38.

The annual show features two million lights along a 1.6-mile winding path and takes more than one month to set up. A single family, the Benders, have been in charge since the drive-thru display opened in 2009.

Think your neighbors set up their lights early? The Benders start—get this— immediately after Columbus Day.

“Most of the stuff we have isn’t commercial props,” Bridget Bender—who manages the campground with her two sisters, brother-in-law, and mom—told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

PHOTOS: How the Benders set up their show

“My older sister Rachel, her only job through the entire light show is to decorate the tree tops and everything up in the air. And she works harder than all the rest of us,” Bender added. “She’s up 60 feet in the air in a cherry picker for five or six weeks. She’s still here at 7 every night when the rest of us are done for the day. She’s done it all these years and does it much quicker than any of the rest of us could even try to do.”

Get Tickets to the 2023 Christmas Carnival of Lights

Last year, the Benders released a children’s book, “Evy the Evergreen Finds His Shine,” based on their light show. The book follows Sofia and her brother Jax, who stumble across Evy, a pine tree that feels different from the other trees in his forest. Throughout the story, the siblings teach Evy how to shine in her own way. Families can stop by Santa’s Workshop after driving through the light display to pick up a copy and listen to Santa read it aloud!

MORE: 7 Light Displays You Don’t Want to Miss This December


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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