The second annual Festival of Lights is set to run from Saturday, Dec. 10 to Sunday, Dec. 18.
Sponsored by the Stuart Park and Recreation Association and the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce, the event will be held at DeHart Park in Stuart from 6-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and Friday and Saturday from 6-9 p.m.
Amy Corns, park association fundraising chairman, said the festival is a local Christmas light display.
“We are asking businesses, organizations, churches, and families to create their own lighted display and bring it to the park and set it up,” she said, adding that participation is free.
Those who are interested need only to create and bring their lighted display to the park with extension cords for hook-up, Corns said.
To ensure traffic will move smoothly, and concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be a drive-through.
“The kids will be able to roll down their windows and wave, but we won’t have a specific place to pull off and park,” Corns said.
The entrance cost to the event is $10 per car. Once cars enter the park they can stay as long as they wish.
Corns believes many of last year’s patrons appreciated being able to drive the festival’s circle multiple times.
“You don’t just come in and drive through once and then exit. You can drive through as many times as you like while you’re in the park, and then once you drive through three or four times then when you’re ready to exit, you can exit the park,” she said.
Corns said last year’s event had just shy of 30 displays and raised more than $9,000.
“The community was very thoughtful and complimentary. We don’t have anything like this in this area, so I think the community was really excited to have that as something locally so they wouldn’t have to drive to Roanoke, Winston, or Galax,” she said.
Corns said the festival also attracted visitors from those areas, which benefited local tourism.
This year’s event has nearly 60 displays, which means “we have pretty much doubled our number of displays in the park. We are using every inch of the park space,” she said.
While visitors didn’t know what to expect from the event last year, Corns said many have reached out to the organization asking to get involved this year.
She said she believes each group’s own creative twist in their display helps make the event extra special.
“Some of the displays are just very Christmas and festive, but then with other groups, their displays will represent what their organization is or believes in, which makes it really neat because it’s very personalized. It’s not just generic Christmas decorations, it’s very well thought out and well-planned displays. That makes it very special,” she said.
Carolers will perform every night at the picnic shelter. Outdoor space heaters donated by Stanburn Winery and propane donated by Hall’s Propane will help keep them warm.
Corns said the Patrick County Tourism Department sponsored Christmas music during the event through WHEO.
Duck Donuts will be onsite with donuts and hot chocolate on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be onsite every night.
Corns said each car can vote for their favorite display.
“When you pull into the park you will get a token. Every display will have a number. When you exit the park, we will have a place where you can put your token in the stocking for your favorite display,” she said.
The fan favorite will win a golf trip for two to Primland Resort.
The park board will also decide the best elementary school display. Corns said the winning school will receive a free pool party at the end of the year.
Proceeds from the event will go towards park projects. Corns said last year’s funds went towards the purchase of DeHart’s new playground piece, which was installed during the summer.
This year’s project is the renovation of park bathrooms to make them Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible.
“We’re definitely renovating the outside bathrooms that are located on the outside of the pool. We hope to renovate both the outside and the inside, but it will depend on what our budget can afford,” she said.
Corns said the group is also looking at other grants to help fund the renovations.
Those interested in showing their displays should reach out to a board member or email Corns at firstname.lastname@example.org.