Winter Magic coming to Cliff Drive

Editors’ Note: This map is an updated version provided by KC Parks. The first map that was provided was incorrect.

At Tuesday’s Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board meeting, Commissioners approved an agreement with Jolt Lighting to bring Winter Magic, Kansas City’s premier drive through holiday lights display, to Cliff Drive in Northeast Kansas City.

“Jolt Lighting, LLC has been in the Christmas display business for 17 years,” a press release from the department said. “They have primarily served as manufacturers and consultants. Jolt Lighting, LLC has helped many organizations over the world create amazing light experiences and is looking forward to creating their own.”

For the past two years, Jolt Lighting has presented Winter Magic in Swope Park through Camp Lake of the Woods. There had been complaints that the staging area, or line to get in, overflowed onto City streets through the park.

“We thought it would be great this year to move it over to Cliff Drive and activate that, so it’s a good kind of test run of doing events in Kessler Park or opening up Cliff Drive again,” Communications and Events Manager Heidi Markle told the board. “It’s just kind of a short-term two month holiday event, but we’re excited about it, Jolt is excited about it, and I think the neighborhood will be, as well.”

This year, Jolt Lighting wishes to enter into a Facility Use with Concession Agreement for the use of Cliff Drive in Kessler Park for Winter Magic. The agreement runs from September 13, 2022, to February 28, 2023.

The event will occur daily, beginning at 5 p.m. and ending at 11 p.m. from November 3, 2022 to January 1, 2023. Jolt Lighting is expecting 23,000 vehicles over the course of the event. A portion of proceeds will go to KC Parks and to capital improvements on Cliff Drive in Kessler Park.

Markle said it’s hard to know how much money the event will bring in, since the ever changing COVID-19 situation has affected attendance over the last few years. The first year, it brought in about $30,000 for the Parks department, but then with other activities reopening the next year, they brought in $20,000. This year, tickets are $25 per car, and a portion of sales will go toward the Park department, with 2% of sales going directly toward capital improvements for Cliff Drive, which has deteriorated over the years.

The contractor will be responsible for providing plans for traffic and parking control, safety and security, and marketing. They will also provide Parks with a list of items for sale, if applicable, a certificate of insurance, per City requirements, a map of the event layout and copies of other City permits required to host the event.

Attendees will enter Gate 1 at The Paseo Boulevard to line up and wait on Cliff Drive before driving the one-mile display.

“The lighted displays are made of steel and holiday light strands. Rarely, they are wood and theatrical PAR lighting,” an explanation from Jolt Lighting reads. “All displays over a few feet in height are rigged with aircraft cable to rebar stakes. Rarely, some items are hung from trees.”

They will exit at Gate 3 by the Kansas City Museum. 

“Everybody waiting in line will actually be on the Drive so there will not be lines out into the neighborhoods or onto our City streets,” Markle told the board.

Jolt said in a statement that they are sad to leave Swope Park, but they need more space.

“Congestion in Swope Park is the issue, limited space is the problem,” the statement read. “Cliff Drive allows us the space we need (and more) to be able to entertain the community, spread holiday cheer – and to do it without inconveniences for the neighborhood. All of our traffic will be contained to Cliff Drive and none will spill into the neighborhood.”

In Swope Park, they didn’t have an area for folks to queue. For this season, Jolt is allocating 3,000 feet to act as a queue, what they say is more than enough for even the busiest days.

“As our lighting tradition deepens and the display grows over the years, we will be able to continue to move further down Cliff Drive to support even more overflow, cliff just is that long,” according to the statement. “We know that these types of displays normally come with baggage, but roads like Cliff just don’t exist most places. It’s nearly four miles of unused two-lane road in the heart of the city. We are so excited to get the opportunity to join these historic and beautiful communities in Northeast, to get to entertain such an amazing community, to bring a special tradition to the area, to bring fresh faces and new business to the area, and to do it all while being tucked quietly away in an under-utilized stretch of road, all while playing our part to help revitalize a piece of KC history.”

Tickets will be sold online, purchased in advanced, and limited to 250 cars per hour.

“We are excited to bring Winter Magic to Cliff Drive and reactivate the byway for a limited engagement,” a statement from KC Parks reads. “We are confident that the drive through holiday lights event will have a positive effect on the neighborhood by raising visibility and awareness of this historic part of Kansas City. Additionally, we look forward to partnering with Northeast businesses and attractions to amplify the economic impact and create an extended experience for visitors.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Sept. 26 to reflect additional statements from KC Parks and Jolt.

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