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City Park crafts a new story to accompany its train ride through the oaks

Will-o-the-wisp is the newest attraction at Celebration in the Oaks
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 11:56 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -The New Orleans City Park trains have been making memories for generations.

Now, in the darkness of night, they introduce riders to a brand new experience at the Celebration in the Oaks holiday light display, a narrated story of the Will-o’-the-wisp.”

“A Will-o’-the-wisp is a European folklore legend,” said story author Alex Martinez Wallace. “It’s potentially a fairy, something like that, a ball of light that lives in the swamp, marshes and bogs and seen very rarely on certain nights.”

The park approached Wallace with the idea of crafting a holiday story for the train.

He wrote a few options, including this story of an atmospheric ghost of light seen by travelers at night.

“I wrote a few different options for them to choose and because I’m a big dummy, one of them was a rhyming one and so they chose that one,” Wallace said, “and I had to write 15 pages of rhymes.”

The story, he said, is a little bit reminiscent of “The Night Before Christmas.”

“A little bit spooky, but you know, wholesome at the end.”

Wallace has adapted the Will-o’-the-wisps into a seasonal tale, complete with the clickety clack of the train cars.

The narration draws the rider into a searching through blackness for the wisps of light.

From a practical standpoint, it also fills a void.

The park relocated most of the lights that had been along the tracks because they are needed for the driving tour.

“We are a resilient team,” said Waymon Morris, Director of Recreational Services at City Park.

“We knew there was an opportunity for us to do something special and not just have a dark train ride all the time,” Morris said.

“So, kids can get involved with and interact with the story and interact with the park.”

The story seeks to use the absence of light as a strength as children and adults search for flashes of light along the tracks.

It also acknowledges the many challenges of life over the last couple of years.

“The true meaning of the holidays is to remember that we are all experiencing life together and going through it together and to remember to care for each other in that way,” Wallace said.

This tales of ghosts, or spirits Wallace points out, leaves the rider on a positive note.

“At the end, a very hopeful story about the season and what it actually means and, I think, occasionally gets lost.”

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