PARKERSBURG - It takes the dedication of volunteers to get City Park and Southwood Park ready for the annual Holiday in the Park light shows.
With more than 100 displays put out by both the Holiday in the Park board and by local organizations and groups, there is a wide variety of displays on hand for the public to enjoy, said Steve Cox, president of the Holiday in the Park board.
"People always look forward to this every year," Cox said. "Everyone always seem to have a nice time and really enjoy it."
Photo by Wayne Towner
Three volunteers and a city employee unload a large light display that will be set up for the Holiday in the Park display, including from left, Joey Wagoner with the city of Parkersburg, and volunteers Bernie Brookover, Danny Williams and Roger Woollard.
Work has been underway for awhile to get the displays up and assembled.
"We have several new displays," Cox said. "We are setting up right now.
"We are still putting some of the lights on some of the newer displays. There is a lot already put up throughout the parks. We are out here on the weekends, getting things done," he said.
Among the volunteers participating in the program each year are Roger Woollard and Danny Williams, who handle much of the repair and preparation work on the often-intricate metal-and-light structures.
Woollard has been volunteering with the project for 19 years, getting involved through his wife, Peg, who was the first secretary of the lights committee.
Williams became involved about six years ago, mainly through his longtime friendship with Roger Woollard.
The displays are built by Farra Brothers Welders, Woollard said. He and Williams are involved in setting the finished displays together and installing them in the park. That can involve one or two people or up to a whole group and heavy equipment, depending in the display's size and complexity, he said.
"We also repair the old ones," Williams said, with that aspect of the preparation process usually beginning in early September for the November opening.
Both men estimated they each put 300-400 hours into working on the lights and setting them up, from early September through mid-January when everything is taken down and put into storage.
Williams said his favorite part of volunteering with the program is seeing the faces of people when they view the displays at City Park.
"Just seeing the little kids come by the booth and the expressions on their faces, it's pretty neat," he said.
Woollard feels the same way about the time he gives to the displays, even after nearly two decades.
"I like to see the expressions on people's faces as they come through. This is such a big draw for Parkersburg. We have thousands and thousands of cars come through the whole season," he said.
While he enjoys working on the lights, Woollard said he would also like to see more and younger volunteers getting involved in the program.
Some of the new displays for 2013 will include a 1923 Model T, a flying eagle, cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, a display of candles and poinsettias, a deer/cow, Mickey and Minnie, Hello Kitty, a campfire scene and more.
The Holiday in the Park light display will kick off with a lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Horseshoe courts at City Park. Mr. And Mrs. Santa Claus will be present and there will be a parade showing off the lights of the park. Other activities include a coloring contest with local schools, the Parkersburg Fire Department will have one of its antique fire trucks giving rides through the park following the opening ceremony and more.
The lights will be up until just after the first of the new year, and will be lit from 6-11 p.m. daily.
A horse and buggy will be available throughout the season for a small fee to give people a unique perspective is seeing the lights, Cox said. Donations will also be accepted to help with the displays
The event always brings out a lot of people throughout the holiday season.
"We always get a lot of kids that enjoy seeing the lights in all the different figures with the different animations and moving parts," Cox said. "They recognize a lot of things."
People look forward to certain displays and seeing everything laid out in both parks.
"They have their favorites, they like to come back and see every year," Cox said. "If we move a display, people let us know.
"People are out to have a good evening and have something fun to do," he said.
Cox hopes people will enjoy the lights and gain a bit of Christmas Spirit in the process.
That spirit has been on display as volunteers have been putting up the displays as many people have stopped and thanked the volunteers for putting this event together, Cox said.
"We appreciate all the thanks we get," he said. "We are always looking for volunteers to help put stuff up."