In the late 1920s, the recently married Mr. and Mrs. L.T. Burns celebrated their first Christmas together in their modest home on Tenth Street in Wichita Falls by setting a small Christmas tree on their front porch and decorating it with a single, blue bulb. It was a small gesture, but an extremely meaningful one for the young couple, especially Mr. Burns, who grew up in a family unable to afford such luxuries as Christmas trees.
As the years passed and Mr. Burns became more successful in the oil industry, the couple continued the tradition they began that first Christmas. Each year they set up a display of some kind, and each year the display became a little more elaborate than the year before.
In 1954, Mr. Burns was killed in an automobile accident, but Mrs. Burns continued the display, dedicating it to her husband’s memory. Each Christmas season from 1954 until 1970, the front lawn of the Burns’ home, then located at Harrison and Clarinda, turned into a fantasyland of animated displays and brightly colored lights. By then, the display had become so large and so detailed that Mrs. Burns annually had to hire craftsmen and mechanics to repair and maintain the old scenes and design and build new ones.
In May 1971 Mrs. Burns, who had brought joy to so many people, died and the display was discontinued. In her will she stipulated that her son could keep the display or leave it to the care of Archer City, where many employees of the Burns estate lived and worked. The display remained in storage for the next three years.
Following the death of Mrs. Burns’ son in 1974, Archer City offered the display to Midwestern State University on the condition that the display be operated free of charge to the public as a memorial to Mrs. Burns. Because MSU did not have the funds necessary to operate and maintain such an enormous project, a nonprofit Fantasy of Lights Committee was formed to raise the thousands of dollars needed to buy paint, equipment, and materials needed to restore the display and prepare for its exhibition during the 1974 Christmas season. A volunteer force of local townspeople, MSU students, faculty and staff, and airmen from Sheppard Air Force Base, spent many long hours repairing and restoring each scene.
On December 4, 1974, after a tremendous undertaking involving hundreds of people, the master switch was thrown and the MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights became a reality.
|200,000||Estimated number of visitors annually|
|20,000||Number of lights outlining MSU’s Hardin Administration Building, Moffett Library, Bolin Science Hall, Central Plant, and D.L. Ligon Coliseum|
|36||Number of lighted, animated scenes|