Photo by Eric Stauffer
For more than 25 years, the Grandpa Gang has decorated Alton’s Rock Spring Park with a multitude of Christmas lights.
Alton area residents enjoy the dazzling display of Christmas lights each winter at Rock Spring Park, but many don’t realize the impact the Christmas Wonderland has on the community.
Bob Osburn is one of the volunteers who builds the display each year.
“We have a group of guys,” he says. “We call ourselves the Grandpa Gang.”
For more than 25 years, the Grandpa Gang has decorated Rock Spring Park the day after Thanksgiving with a multitude of Christmas lights. Osburn serves as the group’s board president. He worked with co-founders Carl Davis and Dick Disher for years, he says, and took over when Davis passed away.
The display comes together thanks to corporate and business sponsors, as well as groups that volunteer to run the park for a night.
“It’s a community effort,” Osburn says. “As we put up and open the park, we turn the park over to a different group each night.”
In return, each group earns money toward their organization.
Christmas Wonderland also donates to community organizations. These organizations span from food pantries and aid organizations to youth programs. Osburn says he seeks out community organizations to help.
“I hear about a need, I add them to the list and try to get them some money,” he says.
According to Osburn, the group distributed $36,500 — $10,000 more than last year.
“We had a pretty good year,” he said.
Although the electric bill has gone down a bit since the implementation of LED lights, Osburn says this year’s rise in attendance has contributed to the event’s success.
“We haven’t changed our admission price in close to 15 years,” Osburn says.
“We’re giving back to the community … and paying the electric bill,” Osburn says — although the overall bill for the season remains the Grandpa Gang’s secret.
“I don’t divulge that,” Osburn says, laughing.
Osburn says the overall experience is very rewarding for him.
“The kids really enjoy it, and giving back to the community helps my heart too,” he says. “It’s good to hear a good community response.”
Volunteers are always welcome — in fact, they’re encouraged — to join the Grandpa Gang in their endeavors each year. The gang looks for people to help with day-to-day operations and the building of the display itself.
“We’re always seeking volunteers,” Osburn says.
The display is a local tradition, and the Grandpa Gang plans to carry it on into the future.
“As long as we can keep recruiting volunteers, we’ll keep doing this for years to come,” Osburn says.
Anybody looking for more information or who would like to volunteer is welcome to contact Osburn at (618) 219-5464.
Organizations that received donations
- Alton Park and Recreation
- Alton Fireworks Committee
- Alton Amphitheater
- Behavior Alternatives
- RiverBend Growth Association
- Crisis Food Center
- Salvation Army
- Senior Services Plus
- Beverly Farm Foundation
- Oasis Women’s Center
- Hope Community Center
- Pride Inc.
- Land of Lincoln Honor Flight
- St. Vincent DePaul Society
- Alton Boys & Girls Club
- Boys & Girls Club of Bethalto
- 5A’s Animal Shelter
- Hope Rescue
- Riverbend Animal Shelter
- TreeHouse Wildlife Center
- Riverbend Community Center
- Riverbend Headstart
- East Alton American Legion No. 794
- Catholic Children’s Home
- Options Now
- East End Improvement Association
- Wreaths Across America
- Alton Little Theatre
- Enchanted Forest Tree Winners
- Marquette Development
- AHS Graduation Committee
Park volunteer organizations
- Otter Creek Historical Society
- Tidalwaves Swim Team
- Godfrey Women’s Club
- AHS Band and Orchestra
- Friends of Haskell
- Glenhaven Gardens of Alton
- Deacons of First Presbyterian Church
- Toddletowne Learning Center
- Kiwanis Club of Alton-Godfrey
- AHS National Honor Society
- Phi Tau Omega Sorority
- Boy Scouts Troop 1
- Alton Godfrey Rotary
- Wellspring Resources
- Grafton United Methodist Church
- The Bridge Church
- Girl Scout Troops 527, 413, 640
- Morningstar Baptist Church
- Boy Scout Troop 101
- Alton Area Optimists
- East Alton School District
- Power of the Giraffe