Trifecta of holiday events turn Middletown into ‘a Christmas city, a Christmas town’

Members of the Grandpa Gang, a volunteer group, have been working hard installing displays for Light Up Middletown, a drive through holiday lights display at Smith Park in Middletown. LUM opened this week and runs from 6-10 p.m. every day through New Year's Eve. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Members of the Grandpa Gang, a volunteer group, have been working hard installing displays for Light Up Middletown, a drive through holiday lights display at Smith Park in Middletown. LUM opened this week and runs from 6-10 p.m. every day through New Year's Eve. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Light Up Middletown, Santa Parade, Holiday Whopla hope to bring visitors downtown

The dreams of three Middletown women will play out throughout the holiday season during a drive-through lights display, a Santa parade and a downtown festive that will include lights, ice skating rink, entertainment and food and beverages.

Flo Randall, Linda Moorman and Avinne Kiser successfully brought these holiday festivities to Middletown,

Twenty years ago, Randall came up with the idea for Light Up Middletown at Smith Park after visiting a similar display in a different city. Over the years, more lights and animated characters have been added through proceeds from the drive-through event.

LUM kicks off tonight and runs from 6-10 p.m. every day through Dec. 31, regardless of weather. Visitors are asked to make a cash donation. Organizers said lines typically are shorter during the week.

The 14th Santa Parade starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, said Moorman, the organizer. The parade will start near the MidPointe Library Middletown on South Broad Street and end on Manchester Avenue near the former Manchester Inn.

Middletown native Kayla Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Professional Fighters League champion, will serve as parade grand marshal.

“Kayla is a great representative for the city,” Moorman said.

Due to COVID-19, Santa, who will ride in a Middletown fire truck during the parade, will not remain at Governor’s Square following the parade. Moorman said children who want to visit and have their pictures taken with the Mr. and Mrs. Claus may do so inside Pendleton Art Center provided by Holiday Whopla.

Then Santa will light the Christmas tree at 5 p.m. Saturday and Holiday Whopla will officially open, said Kiser, the organizer. There also will be performances from local dance groups and Madison High School’s choir.

Kiser said with all the holiday events Middletown has the opportunity to become “a Christmas city, a Christmas town.”

The goal of Holiday Whopla is to create “a continuous stream of customers” to the downtown bars, restaurants and retail shops, she said.

Holiday Whopla will run every Friday and Saturday though Dec. 18, then be open the week of Christmas from Dec. 19-Dec. 23.

The Middletown Community Foundation is serving as fiscal agent and all proceeds from Holiday Whopla will help finance future festivals, according to Kiser.

The festival will feature a Grinch theme and include an ice skating rink, immersive light exhibits, heated igloos with lounge seating, pictures with the Grinch, entertainment from local high school choirs and dance groups, face painting, cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, storytime with the elves, Santa’s mailroom, Toy for Tot’s letter writing to soldiers, nightly holiday character parades, holiday window showcase, adult beverages and themed food specials.

The ice rink will be open for 50 days through Jan. 3. Cost will be $10 to rent skates and Kiser hopes to generate $100,000. She rented the 48 foot by 100 foot rink from Magic Ice which operates and manages 24 outdoor rinks in the U.S.


HOW TO GO:

WHAT: Holiday Whopla

WHEN: Skating rink hours: noon to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Holiday hours: Thanksgiving Day: Closed; Christmas Eve: noon to 10 p.m.; Christmas Day: 5 to 10 p.m.; New Year’s Eve: Noon to 7 p.m.; New Year’s Day: Noon to 10 p.m. Holiday Whopla Festival hours every Friday and Saturday starting Nov. 26: 5-10 p.m.; Dec. 20-23: Noon to 10 p.m.

WHERE: Swallen’s Park, downtown Middletown

HOW MUCH: Ice skating is $10. Most other events are free.

WHAT: Light Up Middletown, a drive-through lights display

WHEN: 6-10 p.m. through Dec. 31

WHERE: Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown

HOW MUCH: Cash donations accepted.

WHAT: Santa Parade

WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Downtown Middletown, starting on Broad Street and running to Manchester Avenue

HOW MUCH: Free

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