Light Up Middletown enjoys repeat visitors

One of the costumed characters was on hand to entertain guests at Light Up Middletown, which will be open through New Year’s Eve. CONTRIBUTED
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One of the costumed characters was on hand to entertain guests at Light Up Middletown, which will be open through New Year’s Eve. CONTRIBUTED

The attraction expects its millionth guest.

Contact this contributing writer at gmwriteon@aol.com.

With a million sparkling lights, themed displays and Santa, many area families continue to make Light Up Middletown a part of their annual holiday tradition. Some guests return two or three times each season.

“The display is certainly something the community can be proud of. It’s a class act, and one of the best-ranked in the state. I believe that because so many locals attend, it has become a family tradition every year,” said Ann Mort, chair pro-tem.

On Christmas Eve, Mort brings her own grandchildren to visit, and they’ve been attending since the inception of Light Up Middletown.

Entering its 18th year of operation, the popular attraction expects to see its one millionth visitor this year, Mort said.

Regardless of the weather, Light Up Middletown at Smith Park will be open through New Year’s Eve, on Sat., Dec., 31 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., nightly. The display opened on Thanksgiving and will be open on holidays.

There is one new display this year that everybody will remember from their childhood, which is “The Wizard of Oz.”

Upon visiting, guests will experience other themed displays, including a floating Sea Serpent in the reflecting lake, Whales giving Santa’s Reindeer a ride, Santa’s Workshop, an American Flag, a Penguin Village and Deer Leaping Over the Roadway. Added in 2014, the 12 Days of Christmas display is another highlight.

Overall, the park features more than 90 separate displays, many of which include multiple pieces. Volunteers, including the Grandpa Gang, led by Barney Strassburger have continued to prepare the park each season, adding more lights and new displays, annually. This year, a team of more than 50 AK Steel employees also helped to set up the display. Founder and chair Florella (Flo) Randall had to sit out this year due to illness.

With no set entrance fee, guests enter by a cash donation and set their own price of admission. Proceeds from the event are used to purchase additional light displays, repairs and for overall improvements to the park.

This past year, Light Up Middletown gave the City $5,000 to plant trees, because the emerald ash borer had killed so many trees, Mort said.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand in the Santa House from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings through Fri., Dec. 23. (Photos with Santa are available for purchase.) This year’s hot air balloon glow will be held on Thurs., Dec. 15 from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., weather permitting.

How to go

What: Light Up Middletown

Where: Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown

When: 6-10 nightly through Dec.31, including holidays

Cost: Admission by cash donation. Guests set their own price of admission.

More info: www.lightupmiddletown.org