Editor’s note:
I am siting the historical dates included in this article from memory. They may be off by a year or two but that does impact my opinion in any way.

EastTexasExposed.com has verified that in the last month City Manager Jack Redmon has discussed transferring management of Wonderland of Lights from the City to the Chamber with Chamber Director Stormy Nickerson.

I commend the City Manager for taking this action since festival management is not a core function of the City and historically the City has not been directly involved in the management of Wonderland of Lights.

Wonderland of Lights was born in 1982 – the brainchild of Marshall News Messenger Publisher George Smith. The festival was managed by volunteers with heavy citizen involvement. In 1985 I was living in California but returned to Marshall for Christmas – the first time in 20 years.

I was very impressed with WOL. The decoration of the Square was very nice; the decorations on the neighbors’ homes were outstanding. This was something that Marshall could be proud of.

Wonderland was born as a volunteer-driven organization and was managed using a 501c3 structure. When I arrived back in Marshall in 2001, Wonderland was managed by Marshall Festivals. Marshall Festivals was criticized by many people, including me. I now realize how wrong I was. I now know Marshall Festivals did an outstanding job considering what they had to work with and the changes in society since WOL inception in 1982.

WOL was operated as a standalone 501c3 for 28 years. In retrospect, this was the best way to manage the festival.

To read the complete article click here.


  1. Submitted by: J.c. Hughes Jr

    In another post of yours today, you commented that you did not know for sure how WOL faired financially prior to 2001.

    From 1982 until George Smith left town, he and I took turns chairing the WOL festival, in large part because it was such a huge undertaking, we needed a break every other year. It was based out of the Chamber of Commerce as a 501C3 or C6, I really don’t recall for sure, but it was through Marshall Festivals Inc.(MFI), which also helped sponsor and operate other festival sunder the Chamber umbrella.

    When George Smith left town, Monte Bacon and I took turns alternating as Chair of WOL until I left in 1998. I can personally speak for the first 16 years when WOL was totally self supporting, with Wendy Russel Reeves being the major benefactor the first few years, but later it fell upon WOL to fund itself, and it did with many locals kicking in big to support the WOL, Mildred Carlile comes to mind! WOL was self supporting for decades, with the only City involvement being to take down the light displays after the festival closed each year (easier to get volunteers to put up the displays than it was to take them down!).

    As many will recall, volunteers made and installed all the displays and installed lights on the crape myrtles near Walgreens, all over downtown and on empty lots, and the shrubs at Pinecrest and South Washington – through a loaned executive program, with businesses loaning one or two of their employees for half a day or day to install displays and install directional signs for neighborhood tours. There was also an older couple (the Morrisons) that volunteered each year to go to every business on Hwy 59, 80, and 43 and had them sign a written pledge to install at least one strand of lights during WOL and provide a place for WOL posters and brochures.

    Chamber volunteers also hosted a shop on the Square that sold shirts, lights, ornaments, cups, anything to make money to support WOL. Then MFI, Shreveport-Bossier, and Natchitoches joined efforts and created the Holiday Trail of Lights which catered to tour busses, who set up tours of the three cities knowing they would probably have to spend a night in one of the three cities because the distances did not allow for all to be seen in one night – and hence “heads in beds” and strangley enough, MFI did not receive funds from HOT Funds.

    So in answer to your statement, yes WOL prospered and was self supporting for at least two decades.Like you, I came back in 2010 to a totally different WOL and MF, learning we (as one of the founding members) had quit the Holiday Trail of Lights. WOL will survive, and must survive; it is a legacy of Marshall, Texas!


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