Foods and ingredients

Making the holidays brighter, one Mankato memory at a time

Family walking through Kiwanis Holiday Lights display in Mankato, Minn.

CHS farmer-owners Jon and Sarah Guentzel and their young son Gabriel enjoy the Kiwanis Holiday Lights. The couple farm near Mankato and Jon serves on the Mankato Kiwanis Holiday Lights board of directors.

Dec 02, 2019

Why do hundreds of community volunteers climb trees and ladders, organize electrical cords, test 1.7 million LED lights on miles of strings and spend more than 12,000 hours decking out Mankato’s Sibley Park? One reason: to bring joy and sheer delight to the thousands of families and groups who visit the annual Mankato Kiwanis Holiday Lights display, sponsored in part by CHS Processing and Food Ingredients, Mankato.

Jon Guentzel, a Mankato area farmer, CHS customer and Kiwanis Holiday Lights board member, knows that feeling well. “An early, lasting memory for me is the look on my niece’s face when all the lights came on and knowing that so many other people were experiencing the same moment of happiness and wonder,” says Guentzel. “Our community is helping to create so many memories.” This year, the Guentzels were able to relive that experience with their young son. 

The park is loaded with lights, festive music, live reindeer and enough holiday decorations to turn Clark Griswold green, red, purple, blue or gold with envy. New this year is a 60-foot tree of lights, with 2,100 white strobe lights flashing into the dark, winter night sky every 15 minutes. The eighth annual Kiwanis Holiday Lights display runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve and is free.

“It’s a great way for young families to get out of the house and to enjoy the simple pleasure of spending time together outdoors, without spending any money,” says Guentzel, who feels fortunate to be part of such an active, giving community.

He says it became clear to him at an early age that giving back is one of the most rewarding acts a person can experience. His involvement with the annual event began by donating use of his farm equipment and his labor and quickly evolved into a seat on the Kiwanis Holiday Lights board of directors.

“It’s fun to interact with all the volunteer groups and to get to know people from the area organizations that benefit from the dollars and food donations generated during the 33-day event,” says Guentzel. Last year, the Kiwanis Holiday Lights donated $65,000 to 78 area non-profit organizations. 

In 2018, more than 182,000 people experienced the Kiwanis Holiday Lights, sponsored by the Mankato Area Foundation and CHS. In addition to creating memories, Guentzel says there’s an economic impact: People come to Mankato to see the lights and stay for dinner or shopping. He also sees a benefit to CHS. “I work with a lot of businesses and I follow which companies give time and resources. It’s great to see so much community support.”

Learn more and plan your own visit at kiwanisholidaylights.com.