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Bentleyville to hold 2020 ‘drive-thru’ experience

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DULUTH, MN -- Bentleyville will hold its 2020 holiday light display as a drive-thru experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 17 years the Bentleyville holiday light display has been a walking tour through Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park, but this year brought a big challenge with COVID-19.

"It's taking the challenging situation in our lives today and trying to make the best out of it. We made the decision of the Bentleyville board to offer something rather than nothing at all," said Bentleyville owner Nathan Bentley. "That's when the idea came to of doing the first-ever Bentleyville drive-thru."

Plywood mats will be placed all over Bayfront Park to ensure the grounds are safe and drivable.
It'll cost the team between $25,000 to $30,000 to build.

"We've worked with city engineering, state of Minnesota Department of Transportation, Parks and Recreation, city administration. This is actually the fourth plan that we settled on," Bentley said.

With thousands typically attending the event each night, traffic in the area is already a concern for most years. Organizers say they've been working on a plan to help move cars through smoothly.

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"All traffic from the free-way and the downtown will be redirected to the DECC parking lot making their way into Bayfront park," said Bentley.

Meanwhile, another big change is all cars will be charged a $10 admission. Organizers hopes this will help make up for lost finances from sponsors and donations. In past years the event has always been free.

But Bentley assures everyone, not everything is changing.

Bentley said, "We're still going to collect food and toys for the Salvation Army as this year is probably more important than ever."

City leaders say they're happy to help keep the tradition alive during uncertain times.

"Some of the traditions that people really come to rely on with their families getting out for a night, getting to see some lights," Duluth Mayor Emily Larson added. "It is magical. It is really fun, and we still get to provide that experience this year."

Officials are hoping the drive-thru event will be one-time only and next year it can go back to being free for everyone.

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Board members added there are still smaller details to be worked out including how to accommodate those without access to transportation. Still no word on if you'll have to make a reservation to attend.

The Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" will run from November 21- December 27.

For more information click here.


DULUTH, MN -- Bentleyville organizers announced Wednesday their 2020 holiday light display will be a drive-thru experience.

The announcement follows public conversations among DECC officials and others about Bentleyville's plans during the pandemic.

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According to Nathan Bentley, they will build a temporary roadway through Bayfront Park with minimal tunnels that will allow cars to go through.

Bentley said there will be a $10 charge to come through the drive-thru experience. Bentley said this money will help fund the event, especially with typical sponsors unable to donate as much as usual during the pandemic.

Traffic will be rerouted in the area during Bentleyville's operation, which according to their website, runs from November 21-December 27, 2020.

Bentley said there will also be more changes, including no on-site gift shop. Instead, that will be moved to Grandma's Sports Garden in Canal Park.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates on the many other changes expected.

The Bentleyville tree is schedule to go up mid-October.

For more than a decade, Bentleyville has drawn thousands of visitors each year to Bayfront Festival Park during the holiday season.

Before it was held in Duluth, Bentleyville drew large crowds to the Cloquet area.


DULUTH, MN -- Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" organizers and Duluth city leaders plan to hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The press conference follows public conversations among DECC officials and others about the holiday light display's plans for 2020 during the pandemic.

KBJR 6 will stream the press conference live on Facebook and online at 1:30 p.m.

For more than a decade, Bentleyville has drawn thousands of visitors each year to Bayfront Festival Park during the holiday season.
Before it was held in Duluth, Bentleyville drew large crowds to the Cloquet area.

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Emma Quinn

Briggs LeSavage

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