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Christmas dsplays hope to kindle the spirit

By Erica Taylor

Point Park News Service

A decorated monster tractor has been added to the Christmas Lights Up Celebration in Clinton, Penn. that features over a mile of lights and displays in a beautiful woodland setting.

Oglebay Resort and Conference Center has welcomed the Leaping Frog display and an animated Volcano to the Dinosaur Dell light display this year.

Due to the success last year Kennywood Amusement Park’s Holiday Lights has decided to expand the area of practical amenities to accommodate guest requests for more locations to get warm.

Though Hartwood Acres’ annual light display is gone for financial reasons, the region still has several different displays to choose from, ranging from high-profiled lavish to the more simplistically old-fashioned and are dedicated to awaken the child within. The distance to the displays ranges from 20 minutes to two hours to get to these multi-generational activities.

“Kids don’t care how many lights there are,” said Stephanie Tomasic, Executive Director of Overly’s Country Christmas. “It’s about the tradition”, she said.

Photo Courtesy Overly’s Country Christmas

Overly’s is a non-profit organization who celebrates its 57th year of establishing the region’s most old –fashioned light display that features mostly white lights with a hint of color to highlight particular parts. This year they have focused on transforming the displays to light-emitting diodes (LED). Children can look forward to face-painting, Santa’s Winter Garden and more additions to the model train display. Overly’s is located at 116 Blue Ribbon Lane Greensburg, PA 15601, just take the Pennsylvania Turnpike Route 76 to Exit 67 (Irwin). Go east to Greensburg. Take Route 30 to the Greensburg/Mt. Pleasant Exit. Go south five miles on Mt. Pleasant Road to the Westmoreland Fairgrounds. Prices vary Monday – Thursday $10.00 per car or family van: Friday – Sunday $12.00 per car or family van and $15.00 per limousine, extended passenger van or minibus.

Along with more lighted trees, Santa’s workshop provides an old-fashioned Christmas experience in the county-fair-like Christmas Village, run primarily by volunteers. Funds that are raised goes to the Westmoreland Juvenile Probation Department for troubled children. In 2012, these youths performed 1,000 hours of community service while learning team and life skills and giving back to our community, which allows for the creation of holiday memories and traditions for everyone in the community. Christmas Lights Up Celebration is located at 600 Clinton Park Drive, Clinton, PA 15026, about 30 minutes away from Pittsburgh, just past the airport. From November 17, 2012 through January 6, 2013, they are open every evening from 5:00-to-10:00 p.m. and are open on all holidays. The cost is a $10 donation per car.

The vision for the Christmas Light-Up Celebration began in 1993 as they imagined the beautiful woodlands at the Findlay Township Community Park illuminated in celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas. As a result their many volunteers, the tremendous cooperation of our community’s leaders and the generous donations of families and businesses, the Light-Up has become a great success and an annual tradition.

Being heavily community-centered local churches chipped in to purchase a Nativity Scene which is also on display along with other Christian-based themes like their 4×8 sheets of plywood that house scripture verses. There’s also a festive hay-ride and imitation sleigh ride, which are both pulled by a farm tractor.

This year guests can expect to see a horse and carriage animated display ‘traveling’ through the park complete with turning wheels and horses trotting along. Now they have over 30 trees donated by Hozack Farms for guests to decorate for a small price of $35, this and other money are donated to local charities like food banks, West Allegheny Library and Imperial Fire Department.

The Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay’s was listed as one of the 10 Best Christmas Light Displays in the U.S. according to America Online Travel. This annual holiday light show is one of the nation’s largest that covers over 300 acres throughout the resort. Standing close to sixty feet tall and spanning fifty feet in diameter, the “Poinsettia Wreath and Candle,” display is the festival’s tallest. Other display favorites include the “Candy Cane Wreath,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the extravagant “Cinderella Display” which took two years to complete.

Oglebay, and the Winter Festival of Lights, is located at 465 Lodge Drive, Wheeling, West Virginia 26003 and is 60 miles from Pittsburgh via I-79 south and I-70 west, which is about an hour driving. The Winter Festival of Lights is viewable Sunday through Thursday until 10:00 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11:00 p.m. A per car donation is requested and is valid for the entire festival season.

Another aspect to this spectacular display is the Good Zoo exhibit that features animal displays by day and by night a light and music extravaganza where the lights are intricately choreographed to the music. Here guests can see the model train ride by and a light show that happens multiple times each night so each group has an opportunity to experience the ten-minute show on the patio.

The resorts year-round staff takes care of the displays and from September through November they use additional staff from separate departments to help prepare for the holiday season.

The closest and largest holiday display is located at Kennywood. The family-oriented event will open their infamous Potato Patch Fries concession stand and have added a Mrs. Claus Bakery which specializes in holiday favorites like fresh-baked cookies and hot apple dumplings. Kennywood is located on Rt. 837 in West Mifflin, PA just minutes from (about 12 miles southeast of) the downtown Pittsburgh area. Take your most convenient route to I-376 (which runs from downtown Pittsburgh to Monroeville, PA at exit 57 of the PA Turnpike) and then take the Edgewood-Swissvale Exit (No. 77). Follow the Kennywood arrows south on Braddock Avenue until you cross the Monongahela River and turn left at the far end of the bridge (you will now be on Rt. 837 heading south). Kennywood will be 1.5 miles ahead with the parking lot on your right.

Kennywood also transformed their Old Kennywood Railroad into the Gingerbread Express, where guests can experience the sensation of a nice ride and beautiful light displays as they enjoy the cool air with hints of cinnamon floating through. There will also be a petting zoo that will feature sheep, goats, cows and this year they have added puppies and a zebra.  “It’s a different way to enjoy the park, it’s brand new,” said Jeff Filicko, Public Relations Manager at Kennywood.

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