BELPRE - For more than two decades people have come from around the Mid-Ohio Valley to enjoy the festive holiday lighting displays in and around Belpre.
When the lights are flipped on Nov. 21, the 24th season of the Belpre Holiday Lights Festival will begin, said organization president Darien Lorentz.
"This lights festival is all about getting involved to make a better community," said volunteer Jim Craven. "It is a great organization that is all about the kids, making them smile is the best part."
Belpre Holiday Lights Festival volunteer Dana Fouss checks a light display for dead bulbs on Saturday. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
Volunteers Jim Craven, left, and Dana Fouss fix and check lights displays for the 24th annual Belpre Holiday Lights Festival in the organization’s building on Gene Street behind the city building on Saturday as they prepare for the event, which begins at 6 p.m. on Nov. 21. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
The lighting displays, which include poinsettia, angels and a carousel, all made of colored strings of lights with metal frames, are added to each year with new displays each year.
This year's new displays include the ships of Christopher Columbus - the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria; the "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" trio; a kangaroo; a bird fighting to catch a worm and a newly designed "Holiday Lights Sign."
"Unlike other lights displays, we make all of our own, in house," said volunteer Dana Fouss. "Each year we build something new, which makes it more fun."
This will be the 24th year for the festival, which began in 1989 with Bob Jackson and the Belpre Woman's Club placing two doves near the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge.
"We now have 195 displays and most of them have two or more parts, so we really have more than 250 individual lighted pieces," Craven said.
The carousel is the largest with 13 pieces.
The popular holiday lights displays are currently being placed around the city, in parks, along roadways and on buildings. About 30 percent of the displays are animated with lighted movement and often tell a story.
"About 98 percent of the lights are up," Craven said Saturday.
The members of the Belpre Holiday Lights Committee work 11 months each year designing, building and placing displays in their Gene Street building to be placed around the city and in Civitan and Howes Grove parks during each holiday season.
"There is a lot of work we do all year long," Fouss said. "We have people working all year long, on weekends and during the week."
Craven said they are always looking for more volunteers.
"It is a great thing for people who are retired to do because it only takes the time you want it to and you get to see the excitement when the lights go on," he said.
This year's Belpre Holiday Lights Festival will begin at 6 p.m. Nov. 21 with the displays illuminating the city with holiday spirit between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. every night through Jan. 2.
The annual Festival of Lights Parade will be held Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. and will include floats, walking groups, carolers and horses and riders from individuals and groups throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley.
All participants in the parade, which is sponsored by the lights committee and coordinated by the Belpre Lions Club, are required to be illuminated with Christmas lights and reflect the holiday spirit, said committee member Nancy Sams.
Little Miss and Mister Christmas winners will welcome Santa and the special "Pink Tractor for Breast Cancer" built by members of the Pioneer Antique Power Association, who will be escorting Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Continuing with tradition, Santa and Mrs. Claus will greet children at the bandstand gazebo in Civitan Park immediately following the parade courtesy for the Belpre Woman's Club.
Because of the evening darkness and for the safety of all involved, the parade committee asks that all candy be handed out, not thrown to the audience, Sams warned.
For more information on the Belpre Holiday Lights Festival and committee, contact Lorentz at (740) 423-5067 or Marvin Sams at (740) 423-7382.