A fiberglass figurine of the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe smiles as child-like dolls play behind her. Nearby, Santa Claus sits in a rickety, wooden rocking chair soaking his feet in a bucket of water with Rudolph by his side. Each holiday season, from the first Friday in December until January 1, Midwestern State University’s Hardin Lawn in Wichita Falls transforms into a fanciful wonderl and. Here, visitors can see 34 illuminated life-size scenes depicting nursery rhymes and beloved Disney characters amid campus buildings lined with thousands of multicolored lights.

The now-lavish display came to life in the 1920s when a young couple, LT. and Lillian Burns, placed a modest Christmas tree on the front lawn of their home on 10th Street. It was the first holiday Lillian had ever had her own tree. From then on, the tradition grew with a new display each year until the Burnses’ lawn turned into the most anticipated spectacle in town, attracting thousands of visitors every season.

The Burnses’ custom continued until they had both passed away, leaving the Christmas legacy with their son, who lived nearby in Archer City. Upon his death, the display returned to Wichita Falls in 1974 and became known as the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights.

Visitors can spend an evening walking along the path that wends through the lawn or drive through on a designated lane alongside the campus’ Taft Boulevard. For many families, the free public event is a yearly tradition. The children know where the bubble-blowing robot will be and where the sculpted green crocodile hides under Peter Pan’s ship, ready to snap at onlookers.

In daytime, you might notice the cracks and age on Santa’s house and the rusty wheels of the Little Engine That Could. But at dusk, when the main switch turns on and the whimsica l scenes come to life, be sure and turn on your imagination as well.

Call 940/716-5500; www.mwsu.edu/fantasy.

From the December 2009 issue
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