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COOS BAY -- Oregon’s classic coastal garden lights up for the 32nd annual Holiday Lights at Shore Acres, which kicks off Thanksgiving Day and runs nightly 4-9:30 p.m. through New Year’s Eve.

The event has become a must-see for both local residents and out-of-towners since its 1987 inception. The display has grown from a few strings of lights to include “light sculptures” of pelicans, puffins, jellyfish, a life-size leaping orca whale, butterflies, sea lions, leaping frogs and much more. The historic Garden House is open nightly offering free hot cider, punch, coffee and cookies, and holiday concerts featuring local choirs and musicians are scheduled many nights. A schedule is posted at shoreacres.net.

Park Manager Denice Hardy calls the event’s growing popularity “a wonderful double edged sword.”

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer this beloved holiday event,” she said. “However, dealing with traffic on Cape Arago Highway at peak times isn’t fun for anyone.”

To alleviate congestion that can stack up for 1.5 hours or longer on dry days and weekends, Oregon State Parks is dangling a small incentive to encourage weekday visits. Park rangers at the entrance booth will randomly select one vehicle each Sunday through Thursday after 3 p.m. to win an Oregon State Parks branded gift or an annual parking pass valued at $30.

“The giveaway is our way of thanking those who can make a weekday visit work with their schedules,” Hardy said. “We hope this will lead to a better experience for all, every day of the event.”

Park staff also recommend these tips for making the most of this popular holiday tradition:

• Arrive before 4 p.m. to enjoy trails, ocean views, historical displays and the gift center. Watching the gardens light up as dusk settles to dark is pure magic.

• Don’t fear the rain. The lights are beautiful no matter the weather.

• Carpool. Traffic stalls when the parking lot is full, typically by 6 p.m.

Visitors may encounter traffic flaggers on peak nights to help traffic flow and allow access for emergency vehicles.

Shore Acres Holiday Lights has been a tradition since 1987, when the Friends of Shore Acres first decided to string a few lights. Hundreds of volunteers spend six weeks installing lights to prepare for the Thanksgiving opening, and local businesses and organizations decorate the park’s 26 Christmas trees.

The event is free; parking is $5 per vehicle, payable at the booth at the park entrance, 89039 Cape Arago Highway. The parking fee is covered for those who display a valid coastal passport, current OPRD campground receipt, or an OPRD annual parking pass, available at store.oregonstateparks.org or on site at the Information & Gift Center.

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