The History Of The Wyoming Territorial Prison Light Show
Every year, thousands of Laramie residents drive by on Snowy Range Road, taking in the flashing and colorful lights shining from the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site. Families stop in the parking lot, their radios tuned to the frequency to synchronize the music and the lights together. Some dance in the parking lot with their children. Some bring pizza or hot cocoa and turn it into a date night. But 10,000 lights do a lot to bring the community together, at an unexpected historic state site.
The lights at the Territorial prison began back in 2012, with a simple decision by Deborah Cease, superintendent. "I approached my assistant superintendent and said, you know, we need to do something for the holidays, because at the time we were closed. So, we put some red and green floodlights on the front of the prison, and it was just stunning."
Cease says that the colorful lights got them thinking. At the time they were closed to the public in the winter, and they had plenty of land that was just sitting there. "Let's put some decorations up," Cease and her team decided. They added a few displays in 2013, and the feedback was tremendous. That lead to adding more displays, and getting the help of a computer programmer to figure out the light programs and synchronize the music with the lights.
"It was a way of showing the community that we were here, even in the wintertime. We wanted the community to enjoy the site. So we did these lights." Cease said that they always try to outdo the year before, and so every year it continues to grow.
This year, they added the Holiday Trail event to give the community an opportunity to get closer to the light displays. "We thought, okay... No one can see them. So we wanted to invite everyone to come out and get closer to the displays, and of course, everyone had a great time."
The Territorial Prison staff is only made up of about 5 full-time employees, so they start early in getting the lights prepared and get a lot of help from surrounding organizations and volunteers. This year, they started putting up lights just a few days after the Pumpkin Walk event. Cease is sure to recognize the help from Fremont Electric, which helps the staff with trapping trees by giving them the use of their bucket truck. Music is selected and programmed, and the community gets to enjoy the lights from the day after Thanksgiving, until New Year's Eve.
Deborah tells a story of receiving a letter from a student at the University. "We had a young lady that sent us an e-mail and she said:
"I see them every night and I stop pretty often to go and listen to the music. Being away from home and attending the University, makes it pretty hard to get into the holiday spirit. But those lights have really brightened my spirits and made me excited for Christmas to come."
"That, right there, is why we do the lights." Deborah said.
You can still catch the Holiday Music and Light Show at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site every night from 5:30 - 11:30 until December 31.