With Thanksgiving behind them, many in Colorado Springs have turned to seeking out the extravagant displays of holiday lights going up on homes, public buildings, streets and attractions.

“It’s Christmastime,” said Sharon Jones, who brought her 2-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son to the Mountain Illumination Festival at Cave of the Winds on Friday, its opening night. “It’s awesome.”

The light show, which is part driving tour, part illuminated stroll, boasts a quarter of a million multicolored lights, refreshments and visits with Santa.

It took eight people working daily for about a month to set up the lights, said Anne Miller, operations manager at the tourist attraction outside Manitou Springs. It’s the event’s first year.

Drivers are encouraged to turn their radios to a station playing holiday music while they wind through a short driving portion. Then people can park and walk through more lights.

Too many activities this time of year are indoors, said Brittany Morse, who lives in Colorado Springs. That’s why she took her 4-year-old son, Abraham Verdonck, to the Mountain Illumination Festival.

“Normally people, for winter, they think, ‘Let’s stay cooped up indoors,’ ” Morse said. “That’s what I’m teaching him — just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. It’s fun to be able to get out and do something family-oriented.”

Sam Medellin and his 7-year-old daughter, Yaneli, came to see the lights while visiting from San Antonio.

“We figured it would be a good family event, family thing to do that’s kind of different than most things — it’s a little different than the zoo, it’s a little different than walking around downtown with the family,” Medellin said. “You get to see the mountains, you get to see what people put a lot of hard work into.”

Yaneli said she loved the strings of lights made to look like an enormous Christmas tree.

But asked what she thought of Colorado Springs, Yaneli said, “really cold.”

Ellie is a crime and breaking news reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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