Santa to join the lighting of 13th annual Festival of Lights display in West Union

It wasn’t so chilly and windy earlier this month as many volunteers including Laurie Thompson and Judy Roach (l-r) worked hard to put together the annual Festival of Lights display. This year’s display will be lit on Wednesday, November 25 and Santa Claus will visit that same evening to greet kids as they drive by to look at the magnificent display.  (Megan Molseed photo)


Santa to join the lighting of 13th annual Festival of Lights display in WU next week 

By Megan Molseed

“It won’t be the same as we have done it every year before, but Santa Claus will still be able to join us for this year’s lighting!” exclaimed Festival of Lights volunteer, Judy Roach. 

“Each year I look at it and think that while it is a tremendous amount of work, it is just a beautiful sight,” Roach, continued. “There are thousands and thousands of lights that we use to put it all together, and every year it really does take my breath away!” 

A favorite holiday tradition for many, the Festival of Lights started 13 years ago when a group of community members got together with plans to illuminate West Union’s Rec Center with holiday cheer.  Since then, it has grown and grown each year into one of the area’s largest holiday light displays. 

“We really do love Christmas time,” chuckled Roach of herself and the volunteers.  “It’s fun to share, and spread, the holiday cheer; especially this year.” 

Each year, it takes many volunteers and many helping hands in order to put together the spectacular seasonal display.  And last month’s unseasonably warm weather made the hard work just a little bit easier for the yuletide helpers.  

“It is a lot of work, and most of it starts weeks before we even start putting the displays up,” smiled Roach who has been with the project since its beginning over a decade ago, and still works tirelessly each year to make the annual Festival of Lights display a reality.  “Thankfully a lot of the things we had to do could be done during the warmer weather!” 

With over 40,000 new lights added to the display this year, this year’s Festival of Lights is surely going to be one of the best yet. 

“We used every single light that we had, and every single new one we just got,” beamed Roach.  “We have zero cords left!” 

While many of the event’s favorite features such as the choir of angels and the waterfall are returning this year, this year’s Festival of Lights sight see-ers are in for a few new displays such as a “King of the Jungle” feature, as well.  

“There’s always so much to get excited about,” laughed Roach.  “Each year I think we are going all-out and before I know it, we are topping it the very next year!” 

Roach added that the many helping hands that volunteer with the effort each year is always something she is thankful for.  

“So many people are eager to come and help us set things up, hang things, string things, haul things, you name it!” she exclaimed, adding that there is no way something to this scale could be done without all of the festive help.

“There is so much to put up and so much to do just to get it ready,” said Roach.  “It amazes me each year how many people want to donate their time and effort to make the display as wonderful as it is.”   

Usually, the volunteers wait until the day after Thanksgiving to light up and unveil their hard work, but this year things will be done a little differently. 

“COVID has changed a lot of things, and unfortunately this year, our regular lighting celebrations is one of the things that will be different,” said Roach.  

“The lights will be lit on November 25, the day before Thanksgiving and be on each night from 5-10 p.m. through New Years Eve,” she continued, adding that this year the display will likely mean so much more to its visitors. 

While in the past, the big man himself, Santa Claus makes it a point to visit with each young visitor to the display during the lighting, this year the head-elf will follow social distancing guidelines while visiting the display.

“Santa will be at the lighting for a drive-by visit,” smiled Roach of the event, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25.  

“Families can enter through the swimming pool driveway and see Santa as they drive by,” she continued. 

Santa will have a small gift for each young visitor and will be happy to accept any letter they have written him as well. 

“It will be different from the years past, but it should be a lot of fun,” said Roach, adding that while the pandemic has changed a lot of tradition it will be nice to find the holiday cheer wherever it may be.

“This is usually a time of year when we get together for so many celebrations, and with COVID I think a lot of families are canceling plans,” said Roach.  “Driving through or walking through the Festival of Lights is a wonderful outdoor activity that also helps people social distance.” 

As always, the Festival of Lights is free to visitors, but donations are always welcome.

“This entire thing is made possible through volunteers,” said Roach.  “Every light you see is paid for through donations and installed by people who just want to help light up the season!” 



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