ALTON, Ill. – Christmas might be four months away, but it’s never too early for the Grandpa Gang in Alton, Illinois.

“Started out as just a group of men,” said Dick Alford, Grandpa Gang organizer. “Not too many. Maybe three, four, five, six men that decided they wanted to do some decorating. As you pull into the park, you see a waterfall, and they kind of strung lights there. Then, over the years, it’s grown into three million lights.”

Alford is one of the head grandpas in this Christmas-loving group of retirees and volunteers.

For a quarter-century, they’ve been making the Christmas Wonderland shine at Rock Spring Park in Alton.

“We probably have a total of 23 or 24 we call our regular grandpas at any given time,” Alford said. “But grandpas babysit sometimes, or have other things to do, so they’re not there every day. But for the most part, we have 12 or 12 grandpas show up and help us get the work done.”

Alford and a group of grandpas met Tuesday morning to discuss the work that will get underway within a month’s time.

Setting up wooden displays and hanging lights will begin Monday, Sept. 11, at 8 a.m.

“We’ll start Sept. 11, and we pretty much work straight through until a day or two before Thanksgiving. And then we open up after Thanksgiving,” Alford said.

The group put out a call to all grandpas to volunteer for the Christmas Wonderland display – all put together by a lovable group of grandpas that just want to make the season merry and bright.

“Two little boys and one little boy sticks his head out and says, ‘Hello Grandpa Gang.’ Then a little boy says, ‘We love you, Grandpa Gang,’” Alford said. “So, you know, just kind of makes you appreciate that you’re doing something that’s appreciated by young and old. Just tugs at your heartstrings when you hear that.”

Grandpas and anyone else looking to answer the call to volunteer can contact the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau.