Riders take in Columbia holiday lights on bus tour

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | 11:19 a.m. CST; updated 4:49 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Jan Coffman, right, and her husband, Jim, look at the Christmas decorations during a Holiday Lights and Sights Bus tour Monday night. "I think it is neat, because I don't like to get out and drive at night. So it's an opportunity for me to see more lights," Jan Coffman said. This was couple's first time taking the tour, which is organized by Activities and Recreation Center.

COLUMBIA — Strands of gold, blue, red and green lights traced the roof and windowsills that made the residence on Chapel Hill Road resemble a gingerbread house.

On Cunningham Road, just off Chapel Hill, a front yard glowed with a Nativity scene, reindeer and Santa Claus.

Along Forum Boulevard, bushes, trees and light poles at many homes were covered with lights in various patterns and designs.

About two dozen people paid $8 each to take in the holiday displays Monday evening during the annual Holiday Lights and Sights tour through southwest Columbia neighborhoods. The tour is sponsored by the Activity and Recreation Center.

The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department supplied the ARC with two 12-passenger buses for two evening tours.

Steve Evers, recreation specialist at the ARC, said there were a few cancellations, but others filled their places.

"This is the first year we have ever done it in the rain," Evers said. "There's been years where it snows and years when it's really cold. But usually this time of year you don't get all-day rain."

This year's route, a ride that took about an hour and 15 minutes, made a circle through southwest Columbia, from Fairview Road to the Nifong Shopping Center and returned to the ARC.

Evers handed out paper towels to passengers so they could wipe condensation off the windows and see the sights.

The weekend before the tours, Evers scouts neighborhoods to see which houses have more decorations. He has established a route that he tweaks each year, depending on who puts in the most effort with their displays.

"It's like a jigsaw puzzle," Evers said.

Dale Beasley, bus driver for Columbia Parks and Recreation, said it "takes a lot of work and effort. Steve does a good job."

Evers said a variety of people attend the tour, but mainly seniors and families with young children.

Jan Coffman, 70, and her husband Jim, 72, attended their first tour this year. They are both members at the ARC and heard about the tour through the center's publication. The Coffmans' home was along the route, but they wanted to see more holiday displays.

"We just don't get out and drive at night," Jan Coffman said. "So this is something special."

Evers said the tour response continues to be good, so they intend to keep the tradition going each year.

Jeannine Craig, 78, and her husband Norm, 79, enjoyed the tour and plan on returning for next year's tour.

"Oh, you bet," Jeannine Craig said. "The good Lord willing, and the creek don't rise."

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