Behind the Lights at Butch Bando’s

Jamie Bando recently lost her husband.

Well, in a manner of speaking. She’ll find him again about Jan. 4.

Hubby Dante Bando began putting up the massive Christmas light display at Alum Creek State Park Campground on Oct. 16. By the time everything is up and running and more than 125,000 people go through Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights, it will be early next year before Dante can take a break.

“If I need him, I know where I can find him, but in the meantime he’s unbelievably busy getting the lights up,” Jamie said. “We have a new layout this year and new displays. We work hard to keep it fresh for our friends who so loyally come back year after year.”

The 24th year of the light show opens Nov. 17 and runs daily through Jan. 1 at the Alum Creek State Park Campgrounds, 3311 S. Old State Rd. The cost is $20 a car Monday-Thursday, and $30 Friday-Sunday.

The Fantasy of Lights is the largest silhouette light display in Ohio. It takes about 30 minutes to traverse the three-mile route, which includes more than 170 LED displays, RGB tunnels, and 500-foot long RGB light wall. RGB lights are a red, blue and green LED technology that can produce more than 16 million different shades of color.

Dante Bando and his sister, Theresa, have operated the light show since 2016. The brother-sister team changed the name from the Alum Creek Fantasy of Lights to Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights in honor of their late father, Narciso “Butch” Bando, who died in 2004.

The Bando’s estimate that it takes more than 1,200 working hours to erect and test the displays. The lion’s share of the work is done by family and friends. Along with a new layout and new displays, Mrs. Claus will be back in the show this year, taking letters for Santa and passing out cookies.

In previous years, the Bando’s provided the cookies that were passed out at Santa’s House at the Cross Creek Camping Resort, across Old State Road from the park. However, the campground was sold and the partnership ended.

And, very important, restrooms have been added at the exit.

Jamie said they have regular guests who drive from Cincinnati and Cleveland each year to see the lights, along with visitors from all over the United States. Each

year, the employees take note of license plates to see if they can get visitors from all 50 states. To date, getting the 50th state has been elusive.

“Every year it seems that we get 49, but we haven’t been able to get all 50,” Jamie said. “You’d think we’d never get Hawaii and Alaska, but we get them about every year. There’s always one state that eludes us.”

One family has made it a family tradition that they will not eat their pumpkin pie dessert on Thanksgiving until they’ve delivered a pie to the Fantasy of Lights workers and seen the light show.

“Every year, they show up with a big pumpkin pie and whipped cream,” Jamie said. “It’s part of their holiday tradition. They bring us a pie, see the lights, and then go home to have their dessert. We love it that we can be part of their tradition.”

The Bando’s take pride in giving back to the community. They host a special night for A Kid Again charity and the show has benefited Recreation Unlimited since the first light show. You can learn more about the other charities the show benefits on the website.

The hours of operation for Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights are 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, pricing, or to purchase tickets online, visit www.butchbandosfantasyoflights.com, or call 614.412.3499.

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