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Tis the season Mountain Home!
ASU-Mountain Home, the City of Mountain Home and the Coulter family have officially turned on the Christmas lights to the 2nd annual Coulter Celebration of Lights.
The lights were turned on during a lighting ceremony that was held outside of Roller Hall on ASUMH’s campus. The event was marked by a visit from Santa and Mrs. Clause, who brought hot cocoa and cookies for guests to nibble on before Ed and Lucretia Coulter flipped the giant light switch.
The event was followed by a Christmas-themed 5k run on campus.
“When you see the lights tonight, it’s pretty obvious,” said Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams. “There’s been a lot of people that have stepped up this year to get in on it. It’s still growing. Sponsors have increased by over 10 this year.”
Now that the light show is officially open, guests will be able to visit every evening if they wish. The lights will be on display throughout the campus from now until December 28, 2022.
Donations will be collected at the exit gate of the light event again this year.
To maximize the experience, guests are asked to dim their headlights and tune their radio to 88.1 for holiday music.
Cars will enter the display at the ASUMH College Street Thompson/Martin gates and exit off of Hwy 62 West through the Hurd gates.
“You’ve got to have someone run this thing. That person is Mollie Morgan,” Adams said when thanking Morgan for her hard work. “She’s the lady that makes this thing happen. We now have her and Roger [Morgan] under a lifetime contract with ASU and the city of Mountain Home to do this for us.”
While the Coulter Celebration of Lights had a solid start last year, the festival is showing signs of expansion this year.
This year’s festival will feature over 2 million lights in displays ranging from the 12 Days of Christmas, a veterans display, a full gingerbread village, a reindeer court, Santa’s toy shop, a piggy bank and an elf, Mrs. Santa cooking, and a camping Santa featuring a full Airstream RV.
On Dec. 2, 3, 9, and 12, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause will be on campus to find out what children would like for Christmas this year. Parents are encouraged to bring the kids out and enjoy a meal of hotdogs, chips, popcorn, hot cocoa, cookies, and crispy rice treats for $5 before heading over to meet the jolly man himself.
From Dec. 16 through Dec. 24, families will be able to bring their kids over to ASUMH for carousel and train rides after work. The rides are free for children 12 and under. Parents and those 13 and up can pay $5 to join the little ones on the ride. Concession stands will also be open during that week if people are hungry.
“This year we’re not going to settle for anything less than $50,000,” Adams said. “When you go through the gate, you better be digging deep in that pocket. Tell every body about the lights. Come every night if you want, too.”
The Coulter Celebration of Lights is a joint light festival created by ASU-MH Chancellor Robin Myers, Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams, Dr. Ed Coulter, chancellor emeritus of ASUMH, and his wife, Lucretia Coulter.
The festival first gained traction after Adams approached Myers with an idea for a Christmas light show in Mountain Home. From there, Adams raised $30,000 to start the show, with an additional $50,000 donation coming from Mountain Home’s City Council.
The festival takes cues from the Christmas light show in Batesville, Arkansas, which assisted Adams and Myers in coming up with a plan to get things going.
Following the announcement of the festival and calls for donations, Adams and Myers approached the Coulter family, who agreed to donate $200,000 to elevate the light show to a new level. The donation was made in honor of Dr. Fran Dryer Coulter, who passed away from cancer in 2001.
“When they came to us with this idea, we almost thought it was absurd,” said Dr. Coulter during last nights lighting ceremony. “But then we saw the excitement and the leadership of [Dr. Myers and Mayor Adams]. Robin and the maintenance department were willing to take it over. We thought it was phenomenal. We had no idea how phenomenal it was going to be.”
The campus light show drew in $38,000 in community donations throughout its first season. The festival raised $418,000 overall.
This year has seen another outpouring of donations, with 10 new individuals and businesses coming together to raise $250,000 to continue to expand the light show.
Over 100 members of the community have also stepped up as volunteers to put on the light show. Morgan said 250 volunteers would be needed to manage the rides and concession stands this year.
Adams said he is hoping to raise $50,000 through donations at the gate this year and have over 10,000 vehicles drive through the display.
The light show is put together by crews from ASU-MH’s maintenance division and crews from Mountain Home’s Parks and Recreation, and Street divisions.
A quarter of the money donated to the Coulter Celebration of Lights will fund scholarships for local students attending college courses in town.
“I’d like to thank the ASU maintenance department for their help. The Mountain Home Parks and Recreation Department and the Mountain Home Street Department,” Adams said. “Those folks have been working back out here since October putting up the lights.”
Remember Dr. Fran Dyer Coulter
Mountain Home Arkansas was no stranger to Dr. Fran Dryer Coulter when she and her husband first moved to the city to help set up a new junior high school.
As one of the daughters of the famous Dryer clan, Dr. Fran Coulter spent her entire life in the Twin Lakes area before attending college at Ouachita Baptist University.
There she pursued her passion for history while establishing a strong marriage with Dr. Ed Coulter. A bright and driven woman, Dr. Fran Coulter matched her husband’s achievements by graduating summa cum laude with her bachelor’s degree before obtaining her master’s and doctorate degrees.
After the couple finished building Mountain Home’s new junior high school, she took up the role of professor at Ouachita Baptist University. At the same time, her husband settled into his new job with the university as a consultant for the Arkansas Technical Assistance Center; a department focused on helping public schools desegregate during the 60s.
They would both excel at their jobs. Fran would receive her full professorship while Ed would become the school’s vice president for administration for the next 20 years.
Together the happy couple traveled the world, visiting all of the places and historical sites she gave lectures on to her students. During this time, the couple would have three children together.
Fate would call in 1995 after Arkansas State University asked Dr. Ed Coulter to become chancellor and take Arkansas State University – Mountain Home Technical College to the next level by building a new campus. The task was difficult, but Dr. Ed Coulter had the experience to pull it off.
Fran would sacrifice “the mountain she had climbed” by stepping away from the position she had earned at Ouachita State University and returning home to the small American town she had grown up in.
Over the next few years, the Coulter’s would secure funding for the campus’s 140 acres and buildings. They would break ground with Governor Mike Huckabee in 1998 to celebrate the first phase of construction for the campus’s buildings.
By 1999, ASUMH achieved an attendance of over 1,000 students for the first time. Those students would march from their old campus to the new one Jan. 11, 2000.
Mountain Home’s dream of having a university had finally come true.
In 2004, Dr. Fran Dryer Coulter passed away after battling cancer. The Fran Coulter Honors Program was established in her honor in 2003.
The Coulter Celebration of Lights is currently looking for more volunteers to help make this Christmas a special time to remember. If you would like to donate to the celebration or volunteer, please contact Mollie Morgan at [email protected] or (870) 508-6191.
This event would not be possible without volunteers and sponsors. A special thank to all who have given their time and/or financial resources!