Bentleyville on wheels

The+gate+into+the+%22Tour+of+Lights%22+stayed+the+same+through+the+changes+made+for+the+2020+season.

Wyatt Pahos

The gate into the “Tour of Lights” stayed the same through the changes made for the 2020 season.

By Wyatt Pahos

To accommodate for social distancing due to the continuing pandemic, Bentleyville took advantage of the opportunity to keep the tour of lights glowing in Duluth. Throughout the dates of Nov. 21 to Dec.31 anyone could drive their vehicle down the windy, vibrant sidewalk of Bayfront Festival Park for only 10 dollars. 

The line to enter the ‘Tour of Lights’ was just as long as any year, but the wait to enter the festival had grown longer. Instead of parking and walking, this year everyone had to wait in their vehicles. 

With no parked vehicles, the festival parking lot turned into a maze of sharp corners scattered with signs reminding drivers to “Turn off your headlights and keep children inside your vehicle.”

While parents used to scramble and chase wandering children, this year parents were making efforts not to cause a bumper-to-bumper collision. Children were restricted to squirming from seat to seat to examine all the lights.

Tracy Pahos, a parent, annually attends Bentleyville every year. But Pahos didn’t feel the normal enjoyment this year.

“Driving was fun, and I spent time with family, but driving was also stressful,” Pahos said.

Nightly, cars tightly trailed each other for over a mile at a pace that would barely challenge a turtle. To keep people interested, the 128-foot LED tree in the middle of the light show was connected to the 91.7 radio station so drivers could tune in to the beat of the song playing syncopated with flashing colors on the tree.

While walking used to cause people to get a little chilly, this year they were staying warm in their vehicles. 

“It seems like a complete waste of gas. I would rather wear a mask for an hour or so,” junior Robert Powell said.

The crawling path of autos to Bentleyville followed along West Railroad Street. With more space being taken by driveways where vehicles could easily access, the tour was limited.  Pahos was disappointed after the wait.

“I waited an hour and a half to drive through lights for five minutes,” Pahos said.

The hours open for tours were Sunday through Thursday 5-9 p.m.and  Friday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. With an hour wait, this late at night, even bentleyville.us (the official website) advised that tourists eat prior to the tour because of long waits.

In past years, walking was much more enjoyable for visitors to interact with Santa, get better photo angles, and travel at their own pace.