Weyauwega’s Winter Wonderland
Parade, event kickoff on Dec. 5
By Angie Landsverk
Weyauwega’s annual Christmas light show and food drive are both moving downtown this year.
Every building on the 100 block of East Main Street is going to be connected to the upcoming light show.
It begins on Saturday, Dec. 5, after Weyauwega’s Christmas parade and runs through Sunday, Jan. 3.
Called “Weyauwega Winter Wonderland,” it is scheduled from 5-10 p.m. on weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) through that January date.
A few week days, such as Christmas Eve, are likely being added to the schedule.
“Go big or go home is my answer this year simply because of covid,” said Justin Malueg.
That was his response when asked why he is again involved in creating the light display.
The pandemic is affecting people in different ways, and the event gives them something to look forward to, he said.
Those who drive Main Street to see the light show may tune to 107.7 FM to listen to music synchronized to the lights.
Since everyone remains in their vehicles, it is a safe event to attend during this time.
Malueg is a former city of Weyauwega police officer who now works for the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office.
For the past three years, he turned some homes of city police officers into Christmas light shows as part of Handcuff Hunger.
The event was a food drive for the local food pantry.
Malueg hosted it at his own home the last two years.
He always hoped to take the event to Main Street.
Other community members had the same idea.
“I was approached by Way Forward Wega and asked if I would be willing to move my show I did for the police department downtown,” Malueg said.
The local organization formed this year to bring more people and events to the community’s downtown.
That also lines up with Malueg’s goals for the community.
“My philosophy from the beginning was to do it downtown, to put Weyauwega on the map,” he said.
Malueg said the planning began in late August.
“We started brainstorming at our meetings,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the group. It just started last summer.”
He describes it as a team effort.
The hands-on volunteer hours began the first week of September.
Malueg, along with Devin DuCoeur and Bob Beisner, did most of the work to put the lights on the buildings.
Among those involved, Malueg estimates there will easily be 250 volunteer hours put into this year’s event.
Approximately 75,000 lights were put on businesses, he said.
That number also includes lights decorating businesses on Mill Street.
“What we’re hoping is that from the Cenex station all the way to Main Street” is decorated, Malueg said. “We reached out to every business owner and home owner.”
They were asked if they were willing to put up lights or other lighted decorations in their yards.
Way Forward Wega volunteers were available to help businesses.
“On the same stretch, we will have Peterson Park completely decorated,” Malueg said. “The bridge will have lights across it.”
The event is being supported by the city and volunteers from local businesses and throughout the community.
The city supported the effort with $2,000 for the purchase of lights and equipment, as well as to help cover promotional expenses.
Malueg said there has been an “overwhelming amount of donations from citizens and businesses, so that’s really great.”
Weyauwega’s annual Christmas parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the bridge on Mill Street.
The parade heads downtown, turning left onto East Main Street.
After the parade, Way Forward Wega is unveiling its “Storefront Santa” in the vacant 131 E. Main St. space.
The plan is for families and children to stand outside the window, take pictures and hopefully communicate with Santa in some way.
The light show begins that night as well and continues on weekends throughout the holiday season.
“We may add week nights if there is a good turnout,” Malueg said.
He said the ultimate goal is outreach and to bring people to see the community.
The Weyauwega Police Department and Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office are sponsoring the fourth annual Handcuff Hunger from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12.
Those who drive down East Main Street to see the lights that night are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and monetary donations.
“We encourage people to remain in their vehicles due to the covid pandemic,” Malueg said.
Officers will remove the donations, he said.
This year, the food donations will again be divided between Weymont Food Pantry and the Weyauwega-Fremont School District.
Monetary donations will be divided among the pantry, school district, police department and sheriff’s office.
Donations given to the police department will support its drone program.
Funds going to the sheriff’s office will support its K-9 program.
Many are living paycheck to paycheck during this uncertain time and turning to the food pantry for help, Malueg said.
“This year would be the most needed time for food items for the food pantry,” he said.