By Debbie Bryce: Idaho State Journal. Posted: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 12:43 am .
POCATELLO — Volunteer crews expected to feed about 2,500 people during the annual Christmas in the Night Time Skies event Saturday. After more than two decades the annual show has become a holiday tradition in Southeast Idaho.
Vicki Jenkins, one of the original organizers, said events like the one held at the Bannock County Fairgrounds, were held in Twin Falls and Elko, Nev., Saturday as well.
Jenkins said Christmas in the Night Time Skies started at Kimberley Nursery on West Chubbuck Road 23 years ago and moved to the Bannock County Fairgrounds 15 years ago when the nursery closed.
“We just wanted to do something to get the community together and help other people to have a nice Christmas,” Jenkins said.
Admission to the holiday extravaganza, which includes hot dogs, chili, hot chocolate, a visit from Santa Claus, bon fires and a fireworks display, is one unwrapped toy. Jenkins said for 20 years, toys collected during the event were donated to the Salvation Army. Three years ago the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots got on board. “We just wanted to mix it up, and I liked the military connection. We thought it was appropriate right now,” Jenkins said. “Toys for Tots works with the Salvation Army as well.”
Phillip Hartman, coordinator for the Toys for Tots in Pocatello, said last year 2,490 received gifts through the local program and he expects to exceed that number by about 300 children this year.
“Our needs go up every year and the event keeps growing with that,” Hartman said.
Local sponsors KeyBank, Affinity Partnership, Farm Bureau Insurance, Mountain Shadow Landscaping, Yellowstone Glass, KZBQ and KORR radio, fund the annual fireworks display which is provided by Lantis Fireworks and Laser of Draper, Utah.
“Lantis hasn’t raised its price for the show in 23 years,” Jenkins said.
About 30 local sponsors donate food and beverages for the Christmas spectacle and Paul Anderson with KZBQ radio broadcasts live from the fairgrounds and choreographs music for the fireworks show.
Anderson said he’s been doing the remote show for the past 15 years. “It’s one of the most popular events in Pocatello,”Anderson said.
Jenkins said the annual event takes about four months to plan and usually comes off without a hitch thanks to assistance from about 50 local volunteers. Barry Mangum stoked the four giant bonfires Saturday and said he’s been a fireman at the event for the past 20 years.
Mangum said Ralph Jenkins, Vicki Jenkins’ brother-in-law, got him involved. Ralph passed away just five days before the event and Mangum assumed the lead role. Special angels were included during the bonfires to honor the long-time volunteer.
“(Ralph) was everybody’s brother,” Vicki said. “He was there with us Saturday.”
Landon Wallace and Dylan Linehan also helped keep the fires burning.
“I like it,” Linehan said. “It’s a good kickoff for the holidays and it’s all about the kids.”
Mangum said 300 wooden pallets were donated to keep the fires burning during Saturday’s event. Five firefighters from the Chubbuck Fire Department were also on hand during the show.
On Monday, Vicki said about 2,200 toys were collected during Saturday’s event. Vicki said she’s pleased with the yearly growth of Christmas in the Night Time Skies, but not surprised.
“We live in a very giving community,” Vicki said. “It makes me feel good. The more people we have the more kids we can help to have a good Christmas.”