Astonishing, brilliant and colourful through to spectacular, unbelievable and wonderful the Christmas Wonderland in the Botanical Gardens in Toowoomba is enchanting.

This year’s Christmas Wonderland extravaganza, from December 1 to 24, will be especially memorable with funds raised for charities and support organisations set to soar to more than $1 million. “We have raised $956,000 so far and we have a formula that equates to about $1 a person so our attendance figures will also go over the one million,” says Lions Club of Toowoomba West’s Marshall Cox, who is chair of the project team.

Appropriately this year’s showing, which has been put together at the club’s workshop, promises to be better, bigger and brighter than ever, according to Cox. “We strive to make the displays different every year and we are able to achieve that through our planning and construction team,” he says. “We will again have a number of exciting themed areas. There will be a large Nativity scene, of course, an Australiana, an international theme, nursery rhymes, a snow theme, clowns and many others. We are adding and changing those themed areas all the time and we also have a new feature at the entrance every year so that people walking in say ‘wow, look at that’.”

Now in its 16th year, the Wonderland had its origins in 2003 with a dream of Trevor and Don Burstow who created a Christmas lights pageant that the community of Toowoomba and its surrounds could enjoy. In the first three years admission was free and in 2006, when a gold coin donation was introduced, $106,000 was raised. The following year the lights show was renamed Toowoomba’s Christmas Wonderland in recognition of the support the Burstows innovation was receiving from the community.

In January 2008, Don and Trevor officially passed the responsibility of hosting the exhibition to the Lions Club of Toowoomba West, which had been founded in 1963. This led to the Wonderland being repositioned from Burstows in Ruthven Street to the Botanical Gardens in Queens Park, which resulted in further expansion of lighting displays in 2009. Unfortunately, heavy rain in a wet December caused five nights to be cancelled in 2010 but conditions were more favourable the next year when only one night was lost. With perfect weather prevailing in 2012, the 24 clear nights of Wonderland saw the attendance swell to a record high.

Affirming the ever-growing popularity of the Christmas lights, tens of thousands of people attended the Queens Park grounds in 2013 to admire the brilliant lights when $85,000 was raised despite two nights being washed out. More than $90,000 was raised in 2014, when one night was lost to rain, and two years later the tally was $96,000.

With 23 fine nights, 76,150 visitors were welcomed last year when $90,000 in donations were made to the major benefitting charities, Lifeline Darling Downs, Toowoomba Hospital Foundation and the Toowoomba Hospice as well as to smaller support organisations.

Add a little extra light to the lives of those in need this Christmas whilst brightening up your own day by attending Christmas Wonderland 2018.

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