Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Nathan Bentley in front of his light display creation

Bentleyville Tour of Lights collects food and toys

Added on Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Midwest’s largest display of holiday lights has turned the Duluth shoreline into a giant Christmas kaleidoscope (see photos and watch video below). And with your help, “Bentleyville – Tour of Lights” can shine even brighter on the lives of families served by The Salvation Army.

Bentleyville is a 3 million-light dreamland that benefits The Salvation Army. It’s located at Bayfront Festival Park, where thousands of guests per night gawk at the lights and eat sugar cookies, sip hot cocoa, roast marshmallows and lick candy canes. Everything is free, minus $5 for parking.

Guests can express their gratitude by bringing donations of new toys or non-perishable foods. These items are later distributed at six Salvation Army locations in northern Minnesota and one in Superior, Wis.

Bentleyville's goal is to collect 3,000 toys and 25.000 lbs. of foodMore donations are needed this year to offset last year’s loss – 1,100 toys and 12,000 pounds of food were collected, down significantly from the previous two years. To rebound, Bentleyville founder Nathan Bentley (pictured) has gone ballistic on marketing a robust 2012 goal: 3,000 toys and 25,000 pounds of food.

“We’ve got banners everywhere encouraging people to donate – on the freeway, on buildings, on hotels,” Bentley said. “Cub Foods is advertising the food and toy drive on their grocery bags. We’ve got Salvation Army logos on everything we put out.”

The Salvation Army is hoping those efforts pay off.

“Nathan and his team are a wonderful group of people with a ton of marketing skills,” said Major Bill Cox, Duluth Salvation Army administrator. “I believe this year will be very successful.”

You can be a part of that success by bringing toy and food donations to Bentleyville. It’s open now through Dec. 26, with doors opening everyday at 5 p.m.

“In case Minnesotans south of us are wondering – yes, Bentleyville is worth the drive from the Twin Cities and beyond,” Major Cox said. “You’ve never seen anything like it.”

To learn more about Bentleyville, including fun facts, its amazing history and much more, visit Bentleyville is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.