BLUEFIELD — A longing for normality this Christmas season has boosted the numbers of people coming this year to one of Mercer County’s most popular holiday venues.
The annual Holiday of Lights at Lolito Park opened Thanksgiving evening with a surge of visitors ready to drive among the displays. Records show that last year on Thanksgiving, about 1,546 people visited the festive displays. Another 1,865 drove through the park on the Holiday of Lights’ second night last year.
City Ambassador Marie Blackwell checked the figures for this year’s Thanksgiving opening “On Thanksgiving night, we had like 2,030 (people),” she said. “And then Friday night, we had 2,832.”
Blackwell said she saw many of these new visitors at this year’s Holiday of Lights opening.
“I was there and it was so great to see,” she recalled Tuesday. “You don’t have to wear a mask in the car. You could see the kids smiling and they were waving. People are wanting to get out and do stuff, and this is a safe event that families can enjoy together. They’re in the safety of their vehicle.”
Blackwell did not have the current visitor totals, but she said that many people are still arriving at the gates. While the pandemic has curtailed many events, the Holiday of Lights is continuing this year.
“It’s a good thing we kept those events because people are looking for things to do,” she said. “We need some form of normality with all this COVID-19.”
“We knew at the beginning that people were looking for something normal, a normal part of the Christmas season that COVID had not yet destroyed,” City Manager Dane Rideout added. “And the Holiday of Lights is something people are really excited about. The (public works department) did a great job putting it together. I’m sure people are looking for anything where they can socially distance and still enjoy it.”
Some visitors are coming to the Holiday of Lights more than once.
“There’s so much to see, you have to go through it multiple times to see everything that has been laid out,” Rideout stated. “And we really appreciate the outpouring of volunteers.”
A new Christmas tree erected last week in downtown Bluefield adds to the Holiday of Lights, he said. The tree, which puts on nightly light and music shows, is a place where people can stop first before going to the city park for more Christmas lights.
The City of Bluefield is making plans for more Christmas decorations. One challenge is finding decorations that can withstand Bluefield’s high winds, Rideout said. New snowflake decorations could appear on College Avenue next year.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com