WINCHESTER — Despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 20th annual Walking in a Winter Wonderland light show at Clearbrook Park drew 23,052 visitors from Nov. 27 to Jan. 3.

The popular event features colorful holiday light displays set to festive music along a park walking trial. It also offers youngsters a chance to meet Santa Claus.

Because of the pandemic and a need to enforce social distancing, only 750 people could attend the light show per night. Visitors had to sign up for one of three time slots, and each time slot was limited to 250 people. Typically, the event attracts 3,000 to 6,000 people a night.

“For the attendance to be spread out like it was, it was an eye opener and a good success,” Jason Robertson, director of the Frederick County Parks and Department, told the parks commission at a Tuesday meeting.

Robertson said the event’s success will help the department with planning other safe events in 2021 amid the pandemic.

Half of the money raised from opening night ticket sales — $1,715 — was donated to WINC-FM’s annual Chain of Checks. This year’s fundraiser benefited the Congregational Community Action Project (CCAP) of Winchester, which hopes to collect enough money to buy a delivery truck to better serve local families in need.

Also at the meeting, the commission unanimously appointed Gary Longerbeam as its chairman and Randy Carter as its vice chairman. The commission votes on its leadership at the beginning of each year. Longerbeam had been serving as vice chairman. He succeeds Charles Sandy Jr. as chairman.

In other business, the commission adopted a policy about providing services to economically disadvantaged Frederick County youth who are unable to participate in programs offered by the parks department.

Under the new policy, any county youth who qualifies for the free lunch program offered through Frederick County Public Schools or who meets the qualifying guidelines will be eligible to utilize up to $200 in financial assistance per calendar year for any youth program. Any county youth who qualifies for the reduced fee lunch program or who meets the qualifying guidelines will be eligible for a 50% discount on any youth activity offered by the parks department and is eligible to receive a maximum of $100 in discounts per calendar year.

The commission also voted to allow the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to place an interpretive sign at Rose Hill Park on Jones Road, which was the site of the Civil War’s First Battle of Kernstown on March 23, 1862. The sign would direct visitors to a phone number to call for an audio narrative describing the battle.

Attending the meeting at the County Administration Building were Chairman Gary Longerbeam, Vice Chairman Randy Carter and commission members Natalie Gerometta, Amy Strosnider, Ron Madagan and Guss Morrison. Commission members Charles Sandy Jr. and Dennis Grubbs participated remotely.

— Contact Josh Janney at

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