Burning of the Greens and Fireworks Extravaganza set for Jan. 26

While the Firework Extravaganza and the Burning of the Greens hasn’t always been a part of the University of Okoboji Winter Games, they have been an integral part of the celebration for many years.

This year is the 39th annual Winter Games celebration and it was in 1986 that they first introduced fireworks and a bonfire.

At the very first Burning of the Greens there were 600 Christmas trees that were part of the bonfire. It was originally held on Friday evening at 7 p.m. in Smith’s Bay. And many families have made donating their leftover greenery to the bonfire a tradition.

After the holiday season, drop-off trailers are put at various locations around the Iowa Great Lakes.

This year there will be plenty of greenery to make that bonfire.

“Collection is going great. We currently have two semitrailers full from top to bottom and side to side,” said Kiley Zankowski, the director of membership and events with the Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Burning of the Greens and Fireworks Extravaganza kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, and the event takes place at Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

The event start with the singing of the national anthem, some remarks from people involved with Winter Games and then the bonfire will be lit, as per tradition, with the ceremonial toilet paper torch.

“This is one of the signature events of Winter Games weekend. Although we continue to have events the rest of the night and again on Sunday, this event acts as the ‘closing ceremonies’ of Winter Games weekend,” Zankowski said. “Our chairs announce the winners of the different events, our cheerleaders do one final cheer and then we ‘Light, That, Fire!’ Following the fire, a gorgeous fireworks display lights up the sky.”

The Fireworks Extravaganza and Burning of the Greens is a nice way to light up the last night of a weekend jam packed with fun.

“There are so many events to get involved in over the University of Okoboji Winter Games weekend. It’s so fun to see groups of friends and family from all around the country (over 20 states represented every year) and world (over 3 countries represented) come together to escape cabin fever,” Zankowski said. “There are lots of new events this year from a kite festival to comedian shows. Anyone can come to the Iowa Great Lakes Area and enjoy such a wide range of events throughout the weekend.”