Madison’s Holiday Fantasy in Lights – 2015

11-14-15   Opening Night

27th Anniversary

27th Year Banner

After two years, we have returned to the ever-popular Holiday Fantasy in Lights.   The displays are never set up the same each year, and I notices ones I saw in the past were not there this time. See the 2013 Holiday Fantasy in Lights here.  The electricians have regrouped under a new name, “The Electric Group” and changed their opening display accordingly.

Holiday Fantasy in Lights Sign 800

The event also has a low-power radio station on 1610 AM playing Christmas music and info about the displays and sponsors.  I found you could hear the station from almost 10 miles away under the right conditions.

Tonight was the opening night and Madison Parks was sponsoring hayrides for visitors. There were two wagons constantly traversing the park, a popular attraction this weekend only!

Hayrides Opening Weekend at Lights

It was a warm evening of 48°F, so the walk through the park was comfortable. Lets go see the displays, some of them new this year in our new video with the radio station’s soundtrack.  It is almost 15 minutes.

To learn more about the history of the lights, see the 2013 version.

That was fun!  The Memory Tree blinks and flashes to a definite rhythm.  Tune into 88.1 FM to hear what song the tree is in synch with. It changes every week. This week its “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee.  people can sponsor a bulb to remember a loved one who has passed on before the holidays. Fill out form here.

51 - Memory Tree

Memory Tree Sign 2015

Companies are not the only ones allowed to sponsor a display, you can too!

Sponsor a display sign


The Polar Bear and Rocking Horse are among the oldest displays, going back to the beginning.

36 - 25 Year-Old Rocking Horse

Polar Bear

As you reach the end of the tour, you reach the donation booths. Donations not required but are gratefully accepted. Put your donation in the red box and the friendly volunteer at the booth will hand you a candy cane and thank you for coming.

Candy cane sign at Lights

04 Thank You for Coming to Fantasy in Lights

Donation box at Lights

Light Booth Volunteers with Candy Canes

Happy Holidays!  See you next year!

And to All a Good Night

The Swan Song of the Town of Burke


Burke sign

The Town of Burke is a community of 3,505 located near the north side of Madison. It was named after  Edmunde Burke, an Irish Patriot and poet. We moved here in 2006, and it has taken me awhile to finally tell the story of this once-prominent town.  Here are the current boundaries, the unincorporated town has slowly fragmented over time.

Lets start at the beginning. The town was first formed in  1847 as one of the four towns of Windsor.  Read a detailed account of Burke’s early history here. Burke has been giving its historical records to the Sun Prairie Historical Society and Museum. I did my research in their research room after calling  608-837-2915.  Historic photos posted are courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Sun Prairie Historical Society‘s archives.

The former Town Hall is actually in Sun Prairie, behind McGovern’s.

McGovern's in Sun Prairie

It is now a privately owned house. Good it still stands and is in use.

Former Burke Town Hall in Sun Prairie

We live in and near some of the other Burke fragments. Just down the road from me is the former Sanderson School, District 5. It now is an apartment building.


On what is now the north side of Madison on North Sherman, part of the former Bill Droster Store building remains.

Bill Droster - Droster Store in Burke

Sherman and Logan Street-Former Droster Grocery building

On the other side of our home is the still active train track. It has been rerouted slightly at least a couple of times over the last century and once since living here, partly due to the Dane County Regional Airport being built on former farmland.  I caught the Canadian Pacific train on its return trip to Portage recently. See a detailed map of all Wisconsin railways here.

Fall Train CP to Portage

As we continue up the hill on Highway CV, we see Messerschmitt Rd. going behind the gate of the airport. It was named after the farmer Sam Messerschmitt who used to live in this location before the airport was built.  remnants of his farm remain today, the Ghost Hill Ranch building is now part of the property of Best Buds, a local greenhouse.  In April of 1999, the Messerschmitt stone home-built in 1932, referred to as the “gumdrop” house, was moved to avoid demolition due to an airport runway expansion.


Here is the house today, very unique!


Beyond is a hill that has been quarried since it’s materials were used to build Dane County’s Municipal Airport in 1939. Read more of its fascinating history here. It has been Wisconsin Aviation since 1981, serving privately owned pilots and charter flights. Inside is a restaurant where I used to work between 2007-2009, Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room that is open to the public. Here is a picture of me taken with the staff in January 2009.

Jet Room Team 09 003 copy covered faces 2009

An old stone farm building still remain near the former downtown by the railroad track, the same one that goes by our home..


I went to nearby Burke Rd. by the railroad track, the former center of town during its heyday a century ago.

Burke Road in Burke

The train station used to be nearby too.

Burke Depot 1913

And also Burke Station Tavern, from 1929.  Sadly, it burned down in 2007. I never did get any pictures of it myself unfortunately.

Burke Station Tavern 1929

I did get a windbreaker from there at a thrift store a few years ago. At least I have that artifact.

Burke Station Tavern jacket

There is still some business going on here.  Pierre’s Portrait Art Co., which opened in 2014.

Pierre's Portrait Art Co. in Burke

In this area is also a marker for the former Burke Station School.

Burke School marker

Burke Station School District 1 marker

burke school

Burke has three cemeteries. One is at this location.


The 2nd one is Hoepker Cemetery in Sun Prairie. The Hoepker family is buried here.  Also early settler Adam Smith and his wife Mary. He owned a tavern and was a Justice of the Peace.


Hoepker Monument at Burke Cemetery

 Burke Early Settler Adam Smith grave at Burke CemeteryAdam and Mary Smith grave at Burke Cemetery

In what is now Sun Prairie, his house still stands.

 Adam and Mary Smith House in Sun Prairie

Adam Smith marker

The 3rd is at the Burke Lutheran Church


The Reindahl family is buried here. They have a historic site near East Towne in Madison. Also Reindahl Park, complete with a barn and a stone monument across the street.  Knute Reindahl was especially famous.


Reindahl Memorial Park monument in Madison

Reindahl Park barn

Reindahl Park marker in Madison


This town may be small, but it still has two festivals a year.  Lets go to the current Burke Town Hall and the Burke Town Hall Park on the grounds for these festivals.

Burke Town Hall

Burke Town Hall Park monument

The park also has a covered bridge and pond around it.  Very pretty in winter too.

Burke Park in winter

The Saturday before Easter, Burke has an Easter Egg Hunt, and kids can get their picture with the Easter Bunny.

Easter Bunny with kids at Easter Egg Hunt blank faces

Burke’s other festival is the 3rd Saturday in August.  The town holds an annual picnic all residents are invited to.

Burke Picnic flyer

Burke Picnic

We have music from the local group Staff Infection, playing a country mix.

Staff Infection Band at Burke Picnic

Also horse-drawn wagon rides around the park. Lots of fun!

Burke Picnic wagon rides

The food is prepared by the Token Creek Lions Club, brats and corn with Culver’s custard for dessert. What a great evening!

We close our story of Burke at the Sun Prairie Public Library, where they had a Burke artifact display up when I visited in January 2014.

Burke Display at Sun Prairie Public Library

And a sad post-mortem of of Burke’s “future”.

Burke's Future sign

We are sad this town’s peak was long before we were born, but glad we could learn more about its history before annexation into DeForest, Madison and Sun Prairie.

Waunakee Rotary in Lights


In Waunakee, the Rotary Club puts up a light display in Waunakee Village Park. They are a real great group of people doing community service projects the whole year around.  This one is quite popular and draws in people from surrounding communities also. They are open 5-9 PM. Donations gratefully accepted!

Holiday Season sign at Waunakee Lights

Waunakee Lights Entrance

This Nativity scene is near the park entrance.

Nativity scene at Waunakee Rotary Lights

Just past the entrance.

Waunakee Rotary Lights sign

The club recorded a drive-through of the light displays.

They put a lot of work into this display every year, and each display is so pretty!

Light Christmas Tree

Train and Crossing at Waunakee Lights

Elf Light display at Waunakee Rotary Lights

Gingerbread House

Gingerbread House at Waunakee Rotary Lights

We go by the gazebo as we exit the park. Thank you for coming, see you next year!