PARKERSBURG - With the Mid-Ohio Valley's various holiday light displays in full swing, local officials believe the attractions have a positive impact on the local communities.
Parkersburg's Holiday in the Park program at City Park and Southwood Park began Nov. 17, while the Belpre Holiday Lights Festival opened Saturday night with its annual parade.
The exhibits will be on display nightly through the end of December to celebrate the Christmas season.
The “Eight Maids a’ Milking” exhibit from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” is featured in the Holiday in the Park exhibit at City Park in Parkersburg. (Photos by Jeffrey Saulton)
Since the displays are set up in public parks and other areas where people can walk or drive through, Mark Lewis, president of the Greater Parkersburg Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there is no hard data about attendance numbers or other data. However, his sense is that the displays are a positive attraction for the area, another holiday activities that people coming to the area can find to do and enjoy.
"It's a very positive thing for the communities to have," Lewis said, adding the fact that the local displays are volunteer-driven is another positive sign.
"Our many all-volunteer organizations do so much in the community," he said.
While hard numbers and data are scarce in some areas, Lewis said he would like to change that in the future. In the next year, he hopes to do some surveys at some of the local events and attractions in the Parkersburg area to gather that information. He believes it will be very helpful in showing how those things impact the local area and can help with marketing them to bring in more visitors.
"I think it adds to the spirit of things," Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said of the local displays.
Knowlton doesn't have any specific data on the displays' impact on local tourism, but said they are all part of the holiday experience for many people.
"It's an important part of the holiday spirit and people would miss it if it wasn't there," she said.
Knowlton said she is glad to see the trend continuing in Marietta, citing this year's project by ReStore Marietta to install candy cane lights in downtown Marietta. That display opened Saturday evening with a lighting ceremony.
"People will love to have that new element," Knowlton said.
Holiday in the Park is a collection of Christmas lighting exhibits at City Park and Southwood Park. The displays are sponsored by local groups, individuals and businesses and have included a fire breathing dragon, kids playing marbles, the American flag and a fire truck. Approximately 100,000 people visit the park during the Holiday in the Park program, according to organizers.
The annual Belpre Holiday Lights Festival began unofficially on the night before Thanksgiving, as the holiday lights were turned on for the first time of the season. The festival officially began Saturday with a night-time parade featuring all units illuminated with holiday lights.
Belpre will be filled with dozens of light displays on exhibit throughout the city, its parks and neighborhoods through the end of the holiday season.
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz said he doesn't have any numbers about the display's impact, but he and his wife volunteer several times each season during the lights festival. He sees many people come back again and again to tour the lights and see what the volunteers have done.
"I can't think of a project in town in the last 20 years that has had such an impact on the city," he said, citing the volunteer aspect of the program as one of its most positive factors.
The Holly Days Light Festival in Vienna will open Monday with a lighting ceremony at Jackson Memorial Park at 6 p.m. The lights in the park and throughout Vienna will be on display until the end of the holiday season.