Duluth light show impresses

Bentleyville 2020 succeeds despite drive-thru format


Sam Swisher

Cars enter the Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” exhibit in Duluth Dec. 22. The event costs $10 per entrance vehicle, food donations are also encouraged.

Sam Swisher

Every winter break, my family and I love making the two-hour drive to Duluth to see the Bentleyville “tour of lights” display. The colorful light displays and the massive LED Christmas tree are just a couple of reasons why I love this cheerful holiday tradition. Although Bentleyville was forced to charge admission this year and switch to a drive-thru format, I was still excited to see my favorite holiday display. 

One thing I disliked about the pre-COVID-19 Bentleyville was that you had to walk around in the freezing cold. We had to wear our heaviest jackets and thickest gloves to get through the exhibit without getting frostbite. This year, Bentleyville was forced to switch to completely drive-thru admission. Although this changes many aspects to the tour, I loved that I could sit in my car and observe the lights without losing a finger or two. This change made it so more people were comfortable and enjoyed themselves. 

Although sitting in your car and avoiding the cold is a wonderful aspect of this year’s Bentleyville, it created large lines of cars that stretched miles down the road. This was probably the largest downside to this year, and it may have discouraged many people from going to see Bentleyville. You should expect to sit in line for about 45 to 60 minutes, and on some nights it could be longer. Attendees would be smart to plan out when they want to get there and estimate an hour of wait time. The gates close at 10 p.m., so I would recommend getting there at 9 p.m. at the latest. 

I was worried that Bentleyville would have to cut back on the size of its light display due to the car paths that had to be constructed. I was pleasantly surprised to see that volunteers were able to recreate the old Bentleyville without changing much. The classic light scenes such as Rudolph attending flight school and large castle gates that you drive under were all present at this year’s showing. The biggest thing I was looking for when evaluating this year’s light show was the ability of the Bentleyville staff to make it seem like any normal year. Keeping the traditions from previous holiday seasons was imperative to keeping good spirits despite our current situation. This feature was something that the Bentleyville staff was able to perfectly encompass.

Bentleyville 2020 was very interesting since they tried to recreate a holiday tradition while accommodating for the present. They did a wonderful job and many other events could take notes on them. For the future, I hope Bentleyville will be able to return to normal, but the warm viewing positions are something that I will sorely miss.

Bentleyville 2020: ★★★★☆