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Santa lights up the night in valley displays

In the Las Vegas Valley, Santa Claus doesn’t just come to town. He and his myriad helpers set up multiple elaborate camps and celebrate the holidays with all the glittering lights for which the city is known.

GLITTERING LIGHTS

In December, anywhere in the valley is only a few minutes from the nearest holiday-themed extravaganza. The largest of these is Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a display so large that you have to drive through it.

Glittering Lights, at 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. North, features 450 animated light displays arranged along 2½ miles. It was originally a popular annual event at Sunset Park, but the move to the speedway a few years ago allowed it to grow.

The latest addition to Glittering Lights is the Avenue of Trees, sponsored by the speedway and featuring trees decorated by and showcasing 55 charities.

Glittering Lights is scheduled from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. A portion of ticket sales is to be donated to Speedway Children’s Charities. Admission is $15 per vehicle Monday through Thursday and $20 Friday through Saturday. Tickets can be purchased on site, at any Walgreens or by visiting 2012.glitteringlightslas vegas.com.

MYSTIC FALLS WINTER WONDERLAND

Another long-running holiday festival is the Mystic Falls Park Light and Water Show at the Winter Wonderland at Sam’s Town, 5111 Boulder Highway. Mystic Falls is a year-round, pioneer-themed attraction with regular sound and light shows in the evenings. During the holiday season, it transforms into a snow-covered indoor park with holiday music and a snowstorm augmenting the laser lights and animatronic animals. The animals participate in the Christmas songs by singing along, and each animal is decked out in an appropriately sized Santa hat, from the looming cliff-top bear to the squirrel hiding in the branches of the park’s live trees.

"What better atmosphere could there be for Santa?" asked Wayne Tousley, who portrays Cowboy Santa at the park. "There are lights, the waterfall, benches to rest on and beautiful Christmas music playing."

Tousley has a little experience with the role. He’s been playing Santa for 46 years but only two as Cowboy Santa.

"I drove a gravel truck for 15 years when I was a young man," Tousley said. "They’re a lot harder to drive than the sleigh."

This year, the lighting ceremony was attended not only by Boyd Gaming Executive Chairman Bill Boyd but also his grandson, Staff Sgt. Sam Boyd, the namesake of his great-grandfather who founded the company.

The 15-minute laser light show is scheduled every hour from 5 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1 in the Mystic Falls Atrium at Sam’s Town. Cowboy Santa is scheduled to be on hand from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sunday.

For more information, visit samstownlv.com or call 702-456-7777.

OPPORTUNITY VILLAGE’S MAGICAL FOREST

The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village, 6300 W. Oakey Blvd., is one of the valley’s longest-running annual holiday events. This is the 21st year the charity fundraising event has been in operation. More than 75,000 people visit it each year.

The event is a combination of holiday displays, nightly live entertainment and a micro-carnival with food vendors and rides.

The forest itself can be viewed on foot or by train. Each tree is decorated by a local charity or business and can often be whimsical or simply beautiful. The forest is also decorated with many displays, some of them animated.

There is also a miniature golf course, a carousel and, of course, Santa.

"It’s new every year," said Opportunity Village’s associate executive director, Linda Smith. "The businesses come in and decorate new displays in the forest, but this year, we have a lot of additions, and we’ve expanded."

Those additions include a new permanent alpine slide that can be ridden with inflatable tubes; Dasher’s diner; an outdoor performance tent; and an indoor maze.

"We had a storage building that was right next to everything, and we realized we could move the storage further away and expand and create a new attraction," Smith said. "It’s phenomenal. It’s a 3-D maze featuring Boris the Elf, who likes Halloween a little more than Christmas."

Two other attractions were donated by local casinos that passed along displays they were retiring.

A giant Christmas tree with animated lights synchronized to music had stood over the fountains at Caesars Palace. The tree was originally 70 feet tall but was scaled down to almost 50 feet so that it wouldn’t overwhelm the space. A less obvious addition is a formerly fire-breathing dragon that was originally part of The Venetian’s Year of the Dragon decorations. Opportunity Village repurposed it, giving it a fresh coat of blue, pink and white paint and naming it Puff, the Peppermint Dragon. Instead of fire, it now breathes peppermint bubbles.

"We are major Dumpster divers," Smith said. "The word is out that if you’ve got something really strange that nobody wants, call Opportunity Village, and we’ll turn it into something magical."

Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest is set to run from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 6. Tickets are $9 for children, $11 for adults and free for children 3 or younger. The entry fee does not include rides. Passports, which include entry and rides, are $15.50 for children 3 to 12 and $17.50 for those 13 or older. Parking is free. Call 702-259-3741 or visit opportunityvillage.org/magical-forest.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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