Jolly Holiday Lights began when a group of dedicated volunteers led by Joe and Tammy Bechen suggested a new fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Iowa. What began as a small event in 1996 at Water Works Park grew to our chapter’s largest fundraiser.

2000 marked the first year of Santa’s Wish Shop – an opportunity for guests to get out of their car and enjoy pictures with Santa, snacks and gifts.

On our 20th anniversary in 2015, Jolly Holiday Lights was flooded in the middle of December. Just as traffic was picking up for the holidays, the event was forced to close for the season. Most of the displays were ruined beyond repair. Thanks to the local hospitals, the Bring the Jolly Campaign was launched, raising enough to fund the wishes that Jolly Holiday Lights would have covered.

From the very beginning, Jolly Holiday Lights has been about bringing cheer not just to our Wish Kids but also to kids across Iowa. The event funds, on average, 80 wishes to children with a critical illness each year. It continues to be our largest fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Iowa. We’re continuing to grow and are looking forward to being here for many more years and many more wishes to come!

Since Jolly Holiday Lights began in 1996, the event has raised enough money to grant more than 1,000 wishes to Iowa kids!

Interested in Sponsorships for 2023? Learn more at or email

Watch the Jolly Holiday Lights 25th-anniversary video to see our story!