The third annual DeHart Park Festival of Lights will be held Friday, December 15 through Saturday, December 23, at the park. The festival operates on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-9 p.m. and Sundays – Thursdays, from 6-8 p.m.
Amy Corns, chairman of the Stuart Parks & Recreation Association Fundraising Committee, said the event represents the community coming together to spread Christmas cheer while also raising money for the park.
“Each year, we kind of focus on a different fundraising goal. This year, the profits from the Festival of Lights will go to raising money to redo our bathrooms to make them ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliant,” she said.
Corns said the association added a pickleball court this fall and a sand volleyball court last year. It also is finishing up additions to the playground for inclusive playground pieces. A T-Mobile grant is earmarked to pay for the equipment.
“We’re hoping to provide access and pour maybe a concrete walkway towards those ADA pieces so that the community can easily access them at our park,” she said. “We got a grant for $45,000 for those inclusive pieces, but we will use our fundraising funds to help with anything that we need to tie up loose ends from that project.”
The organization started raising funds to make the bathrooms ADA-compliant last year. The estimated cost is about $75,000.
Corns said the festival features 54 displays from local businesses, churches, civic organizations, and individuals registered for the event.
The festival is a drive-thru event and costs $10 per passenger vehicle.
“You can circle through the event as many times as you would like,” she said.
Last year, Corns said the nine-night event averaged about 100 cars per night, with anywhere from one to six people per car.
“It’s quite a bit of people coming through. We are so excited, we met people from neighboring counties” at the event last year, she added.
Corns believes the hometown touch sets the festival apart from others.
“These are not commercialized, bought displays,” Corns said. “These are creative, crafted displays that people in the community have come together to put together, and their theme may be just a Christmas theme, or it may be a theme that represents their group or organization, which is wonderful.
So, the people want to come in and they want to see the other displays and what people have put together,” she said.
An award is available for the most popular display, and the community will be able to vote on the winner, Corns said.
“I think the community enjoys coming out and showing support to their favorite business, or their favorite organization,” she said.
All the elementary schools are also participating in a contest to see which school has the best display. Corns said the winning school will receive a free pool party for its students.
To get everyone in the holiday spirit, Corns said the park contracts with the local radio station to play Christmas music each night during the event. Hayrides will be available on select at a $30 cost. That fee includes the cost of admission and access to the hayride.
Hayrides are available on December 15, December 17, and December 21. The Patrick County High School (PCHS) hospitality group will be selling hot chocolate and cider on the first night of the hayride.
“We have live music set up every night” except for Wednesday, December 20. “We are so excited, groups coming in for old-fashioned caroling. We’ve encouraged them to wear their festive Christmas gear and just come together and sing and wave to the patrons passing by,” she said.
The carolers will be set up under the awning at Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC). Caroling groups include the PCHS concert band, PCHS Praise & Worship Team, May Mountain Church, Abiding Grace Church & Harvest Worship Center, and others.
Corns said Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on the route each night, except for December 20.
“This is the one night where Santa will be available for the kids to talk to in the college. They will be able to park and go into the college. We have a group coming from the college, the JV cheerleaders, and they are going to have a reindeer making food station for children” and a bake sale, she said.
For $5, children will be able to see Santa and parents can take pictures of the visit.
“It has a theme to it. It’s Christmas pajama night, so we’re really excited,” Corns said.
P&HCC’s fabrication laboratory will also be open, and the first 75 that come into the college that night will receive a free Christmas ornament.
Ornaments for purchase will also be available.
“They can engrave them with their name or the year. We’re going to engrave the free ones we’re giving away with Patrick County, Virginia on them,” she said.
Decked Out Donuts will also be set up at the park on December 16, December 22, and December 23.
For more information, visit Facebook.com/DehartPark-StuartParks&RecreationAssociation.