BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS 

The cheesy-yet-compelling spectacle of thousands of lights at Santa's Magical Kingdom

Santa's Magical Kingdom, the area's largest and cheesiest Christmas-light display, offers more than 2 million tiny colored lights that engulf a very slowly moving procession of traffic. When it's warm, this place is Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Family Camp Resort. When it's cold, Yogi and his pals eschew pic-a-nic baskets for Xmas lights and some serious cash. That's $14 a car, Boo-Boo ($25 for minibuses, extended vans and limos).

What you may not expect are the many stationary cardboard, wooden and plastic props scattered amid the lights here: candy canes, elves, candy bars, Hanna-Barbera folk such as the Jetsons, rocking horses, toy blocks and much, much more frolic in themed patches. It's mostly a low-budget affair, but if you're 10 or under, you'll love it. There is just so damned much to look at -- you cannot drive slowly enough to take in all the standees, the lights strung from tree to tree above your car, the shed full of presents and barely animatronic elves, the timed lights that seem to make elves climb trees and send frogs and reindeer leaping across the path and over your car. The staff has really crammed as many lights and props as possible into the park. After traveling awhile on the winding path, you may begin to feel that your visual cortex is full, but there's still lots more twinkly Christmas crap up ahead.

For the older set, the grooviest thing is the drive-through tunnel of lights timed to pulse and move in colorful harmony as you slowly wend your way through. This may pleasantly disorient you in the manner of the famous zooming-colors special effect from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's nothing like the Space Mountain roller coaster, but still, people with heart conditions may wish to eat peyote beforehand.

When you are finally able to pull away, back onto I-44, you will feel a sense of relief and liberation. There was something back there -- some magic spell of cuteness and cheer that kept getting sweeter and sweeter until you had to get the hell away. Like finding that your seatmate on a flight to Australia is Barney the dinosaur.

Santa's Magical Kingdom is open from 5:30-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday through Jan. 2; the display is closed Dec. 31. See it at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, exit 261 off I-44, next to Six Flags. Call 938-5925.

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