Those planning to venture out in cars to check out the new drive-thru Bentleyville Tour of Lights will need to make sure they plan their routes accordingly. Drivers will have to access the event from Garfield Avenue and approach Bentleyville from the eastbound lane of Railroad Street. There will be no access to Bentleyville from Fifth Avenue West or Lake Avenue this year.
"That will help take some of the congestion out," said Bentleyville Executive Director Nathan Bentley. "The Duluth Police Department has an entire plan that's been laid out to help keep traffic flowing. It seems like a fairly good plan so I'm not expecting too many issues."
Most GPS devices will not give correct directions to access the event, so attendees should follow the directions listed on the Bentleyville website to ensure they enter properly. Drivers who approach Bentleyville from the wrong direction will be directed to Garfield Avenue to turn around and line up for access.
Drivers will enter a queue staging area off of Railroad Street where Bentley said they can fit up to 200-250 cars. The pathway itself should hold 100-130 cars at one time. Drivers aren't expected to drive faster than 2-3 miles per hour while driving through the light display.
"And if you spend $10, realistically, you should be going slow because you want to take in all the lights," Bentley said. "Traffic is only going to go as fast as the slowest car. People should expect to go slow while taking in the lights and music. They should feel that whole experience as if they're walking around, but in the safety of their own vehicles."
A low-power radio station will play holiday music directly into drivers' car stereos to accompany the experience. Several costumed characters will also keep drivers entertained in the queue area along with approximately 60 informational signs posted along the route.
Visitors should come prepared with $10 for admission along with a suggested new toy or food donation for the Salvation Army. Toys and food will be collected with no contact near the entrance castle display.
This is the first time that Bentleyville has charged admission, which Bentley said was a difficult decision to make.
"It was not our first choice, whatsoever," Bentley said. "But without the store on the grounds and the donation boxes on the ground, along with less funds from sponsors and a reduction in our largest fundraiser this spring, we knew we had to make the change."
He added that if the world "returns to a sense of normalcy" next year, the free walkthrough will return.
Bentleyville's shop has relocated from Bayfront Park's grounds to The Sports Garden in Canal Park.
Visitors will exit the Bentleyville drive-thru onto Harbor Drive.
Bentleyville opens at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 and runs daily for 37 days through the holidays. More information can be found at bentleyvilleusa.org.