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West Virginia offers plethora of Christmas light shows

By CONOR GRIFFITH

The State Journal

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — Between its resorts, state parks and communities, the Mountain State offers a myriad of light shows and actives to bring out the holiday spirit, many of which are free.

The Appalachian Coal Town Christmas was featured in a special holiday production by HGTV.
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Almond)

Brett White, director of the United Way of Marion County, said 2017 marks the 10th Annual Celebration Lights in Fairmont’s Morris Park which will be held from 6-10 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Nov. 24 to Dec. 29. Admission is $10 per car, the proceeds of which will go to the United Way.

“We’re really excited for this community event,” White said, adding that 400 displays will be up along the roadways through the park. He said this year’s celebration will include two new features.

On Nov. 30, Morris Park will be closed to vehicular traffic to host Market in the Park in which vendors will be set up and visitors will be able to walk through Morris Park to take in the lights.

“We’ll have a lot of vendors and artisans set up so people can walk through, grab some hot cocoa and get some of their Christmas shopping done,” White said.

Another walkers’ night will be held on Dec. 7. On Dec. 14, Morris Park will again be closed to vehicular traffic as the Rotary Club of South Fairmont hosts a holiday themed Reindeer Run 5K through the park. White said this is the first year the Celebration of Lights included both a market place and a 5K run.

Tour buses and vans will be welcomed at Chief Logan State Park for its yearly Christmas in the Park light display from dusk until about 10 p.m. from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31. Entrance is free though donations are accepted.

“It is a great, great light show for two and a half miles,” said Alice Cheek who has helped organize the display for 22 years. In addition to familiar holiday lights, she said Christmas in the Park is also notable for its patriotic displays such as the recreation of the American flag raising on Iwo Jima. She said local high school students from welding classes even come to help assemble some of the displays they made.

Cheek said the park’s gift shop will remain open as long as the lights are one. She said items made from  West Virginia coal,notably jewelry, are among the more popular items during the holiday season.

“We’ve got so many beautiful things for sale,” she said. “The little gift shop is small but it has a lot in it.”

Denny Bellamy, executive director of the Mason County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Point Pleasant will host its annual Christmas Fantasy Light Show from 5-9 p.m. everyday from Nov. 20 through Dec. 31 which will feature more than a million lights across 40 displays. The show will also be free but donations are requested.

“We have a lot of animated displays,” Bellamy said. “A lot of our displays also have sound and being Point Pleasant, we also have a 16-foot tall Mothman display with a Santa hat on his head.” He added that Point Pleasant will also host its downtown Christmas parade on Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. followed by a tree lighting in Gunn Park.

Also taking place in Mason County is the Christmas Light Display and Drive Thru at the West Virginia State Farm Museum.

Deborah Young, with the museum said the display will be open from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 8-17. Donations will be accepted but admission is free.

“People tell us we’re the best in the area but every year we try to do something different,” Young said, adding that the farm does bring out its antique tractors and illuminate them with holiday lights as well. She said homemade treats are available in the museum kitchen at the end of the drive thru and children are welcome to visit with Santa Claus during this time as well. Young said a Nativity seen with live farm animals will also be held at the museum.

Cam Huffman, with the Greenbrier, said the resort has put on its 60 Days of Holiday Cheer for the past five years. From Nov. 3 to Jan 5 the buildings and grounds are transformed into a veritable winter wonderland. Huffman said more than 120,000 lights will illuminate more than 100 trees while 2,000 poinsettias are displayed around the property and 1,000 pounds of chocolate put on display in the main lobby.

Huffman said every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas guests and the public are invited to partake in the lighting of the trees on the resort grounds which will including caroling, homemade hot chocolate and visits by St. Nicholas. He added that the Greenbrier’s ice skating rinks will be open from Thanksgiving onward.

In Raleigh County, the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia will host Appalachian Coal Town Christmas for two weekends, Nov. 24 and 25 along with Dec. 1 and 2. There visitors can enjoy caroling, marshmallow roasts, underground tours, planetarium presentations and craft shows along with horse and wagon rides. Admission is $6 per child and $12 for adults.

Leslie Gray Baker, Beckley’s director of parks and recreation, said the two sponsor organization have held Appalachian Coal Town Christmas for almost 20 years.

“Back when we started, HGTV came and produced a Christmas special that featured our above ground lights and unique underground tour,” she said. “. It truly has become a southern West Virginia holiday tradition for locals and out-of-town visitors as well.”

Staff writer Conor Griffith can be reached by at 304-395-3168 or by email at [email protected]

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