Winter Wonderland opens
Posted: November 20, 2012
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Christmas cheer is going to last a little longer this year on Clear Brook Park’s walking trail.
The spectacle of the thousands of Christmas lights in the 12th annual “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” holiday light show has been extended by a week to let as many people see it as possible, said Jon Turkel, park and stewardship planner for the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department, which puts on the annual event.
The lights will be turned on Friday and be on almost nightly from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. until Jan. 6. The park is closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This is the second year the show will open the day after Thanksgiving.
The show has come a long way since it began in 2000 as a single weekend driving tour through Sherando Park near Stephens City, Turkel said.
“It is demand. Folks want to come out and still have the opportunity to have that experience,” he said.
Admission to the light show is $4 for adults and children 12 years and older, $3 for 2- to 11-year-olds, and free for children 1 and younger.
Last year, more than 24,000 people traveled the roughly half mile walking trail, looking at light displays of all shapes and sizes, he said. Since people are not in cars, they can travel the trail as quickly or as slowly as they like, looking for the new displays and returning to favorites.
When organizers did a rough estimate of bulbs several years ago, there were close to 300,000 of them, said Dan Pidgeon, manager of Clear Brook Park. With the additions made since then, the number of bulbs probably has grown to about 400,000 to 450,000, he said.
Despite the growth of the event, the park has dramatically decreased its energy consumption by gradually switching to LED lights, he said.
“They use substantially less power,” Pidgeon said. “Thanks to the help of a lot of our sponsors, over time, we have been able to change a lot of the fixtures to LED, which has been quite a savings.”
New this year is a computer controlled animated display made possible by a donation from Jim Stutzman Chevrolet-Cadillac Co., Turkel said. The department bought computer controllers and programming that will be combined with existing light displays for a choreographed show.
The fully automated system will play six songs and the lights will dance in partnership with them, he said. The equipment and lights for that display alone is valued at $30,000.
“This is the most advanced Christmas light experience that is out there available right now, and we are really happy to have that be part of the show,” Turkel said.
Also new this year is two additions to the “The Twelve Days of Christmas” displays that are spread around the park, he said. Days six and eight, which are “six geese-a-laying” and “eight maids-a-milking,” have been added to the fold. People are encouraged to search for all eight days on display. Others will be added as new sponsors donates funds for them.
Other sights on display include penguins, elves in Santa’s workshop, trains, kites, carolers and a carriage and horses, Turkel said. Many people really enjoy the skaters that float on the lake each year and reflect off the water.
In the spirit of Christmas, cookies and hot cocoa will be for sale to warm people up as they stroll through the park, Pidgeon said.
Children can also come with their Christmas lists in hand and make a stop to visit Santa, who along with Mrs. Claus, will be at a small cabin in the park every night through Dec. 23.
In keeping with opening night tradition, half of the proceeds from Friday’s admissions will be donated to the WINC-FM Chain of Checks holiday fundraiser, Turkel said. The monetary donations collected will go to the “Me Too” campaign to help homeless children in Winchester, Frederick County and Loudoun County school systems.
It is anticipated that there will be more than 800 homeless children in kindergarten to high school in those school systems this year. The fund helps with expenses such as school pictures, yearbooks, field trips, school lunches, and sports to make sure they are not singled out.
The campaign fits in well with the light show, which is an affordable family activity that gives children and adults a fun, active outing together, Turkel said.
For more information, call 540-665-5678 or go to www.co.frederick.va.us/parks.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org