Founder of Fifth Third Ballpark light show ‘overwhelmed’ by turnout

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A decadeslong tradition at Fifth Third Ballpark has become a holiday hot spot during the pandemic.

The Christmas Lite Show is so popular this year that Kent County officials have created alternative routes to handle the visitor backup on US-131. Show creator Bill Schrader said he wouldn’t be surprised if 1,000 vehicles pass through the display Friday night alone.

“This year, it’s just unexplainable. It was something we certainly didn’t expect — the number, the traffic coming into the show. We have an excellent show, but we were overwhelmed with the number of cars coming in,” said show creator Bill Schrader.

On busy nights, families have waited hours to see the more than 1 million lights and 50 animated displays lining the roadway.

“It’s a beautiful place to be,” said Schrader.

The Vietnam and Korean war veteran says his Christmas Lites Show started simple.

“Twenty-two years ago, I started with a couple generators and some extension cords. Fast forward it to today, we’ve got a magnificent show for all the kids. It’s all about the kids,” he said.

These days, he’s also appreciating the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

“The people in charge of the traffic in the Kent County area here really did a magnificent of routing people at different routes to get into the show. Once they get in here, we’ve got the path to get them in there and put a smile on a lot of people’s faces,” he said.

Lt. Joel Roon says the sheriff’s department will allow visitors to take US-131 to the West River Drive exit as long as it’s safe.

“We have personnel on the highway monitoring those backups, and as soon as it becomes unsafe, that’s when the ramp closures will occur. But those ramps will be open as long as possible,” he said.

Ticketholders to this year’s Christmas Lites Show may encounter the following US-131 detours during busy times:

Northbound: Take exit 95 onto Post Drive; turn right onto Post Drive; turn right onto Samrick Avenue; turn right onto West River Drive.

Southbound: Take exit 88 onto Ann Street; turn right onto Ann Street; turn right onto Turner Avenue, turn right onto West River Drive.

“This weekend is going to be a lot of fun and there’s going to be a lot of different routes to get into the show,” said Schrader.

Tickets to the Christmas Lite Show are $25 per car and available online. The display is open daily starting at 5:30 p.m. Gates close at 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. The show runs through Jan. 2.

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