South Dakota

Family behind northeast North Dakota holiday light display aims to start a holiday tradition – Grand Forks Herald

BUXTON, ND – There’s a new Christmas tradition at the Willis family farm near Buxton, North Dakota.

Coreen and Eric Willis, along with their five children, are hosting Just a Light Walk for the first time this year. The couple created the event as a family-friendly way to celebrate the holidays that allows people to enjoy the outdoors even in winter.

Those brave enough to “venture” off the beaten path this holiday season will be greeted by homemade cookies, hot cocoa and tens of thousands of holiday lights.

“I say dare because we’re a few miles off the sidewalk, so you have to be a little adventurous to turn off the sidewalk and come down to us,” Eric said.

What is “Just an easy walk”? Coreen says it’s right in the name.

“It’s an easy walk — like it’s short and it’s lights,” she said.

The hike consists of two paths winding through the forest. The first is a quarter mile loop adorned with Christmas lights and colorful decorations. The second, which Coreen and Eric call the “extension loop,” is a darker, quieter loop that’s only lit on the sides of the path.

“You feel a little lost in the woods, but of course you’re not,” Coreen said.

The exhibit is accompanied by fire pits for warming up and roasting marshmallows. The Willises also hand out homemade, freshly baked cookies – Monster, Andes Mint and Mocha Java becoming regular varieties.

Just an easy walk 1

Just a Light Walk is a set of Christmas lights that meander through the woods on Coreen and Eric Willis’ farm near Buxton, North Dakota.

Contributed / Coreen Willis

“Just a Light Walk” was inspired by other Christmas lights. Coreen and Eric grew up in Connecticut, where they attended a Christmas exhibit at Whipple’s Chapel that closed in the early 2000s. The annual Christmas lights at McCrory Gardens, a botanical garden at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, also served as a source of inspiration.

The family began purchasing and installing thousands of feet of LED lights in November and opened the event on December 3rd. Aside from having to fix some fairy lights that were chewed up by squirrels, Coreen and Eric say the event is a good start.

“The first family to come through had three young children, and the smiles on their faces were worth every second we put into the build,” said Eric.

People can be reluctant to change existing traditions or find new ones, Eric said, but some who attended the event have told the Willises they’d love to come back.

“It’s really exciting for us,” he said.

Coreen says her family is already planning to hold the event again next year. If it goes on for a third, she hopes to take the original idea even further, possibly adding cabins for reading a Christmas story or watching a classic Christmas special along the route.

Even with big dreams of growing the event in the future, Eric always wants it to stay true to its roots and original purpose.

“There’s a certain charm to building something with just the two of us or our family,” he said.

Just a Light Walk is open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the end of December. In January, the event will be open for a final weekend: Friday 6th January to Sunday 8th January. The event is open from 6pm to 9pm on Thursdays and Sundays and from 6pm to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Just a Light Walk is located at 16613 11th St. NE, Buxton, North Dakota. The event is $10 for adults ages 13 and older, $5 for children ages six to 12, and is free for children under five.

For more information, visit or the Just a Light Walk Facebook page.

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