The future is looking bright this holiday season in Ridgway and St. Marys.
Both municipalities have annual light up nights when seasonal decorations will officially be launched planned. St. Marys is holding its event Nov. 16 beginning at 6:30 p.m. and Ridgway is holding its Nov. 23 beginning at 6 p.m.
The city will host light up night Nov. 16 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Ann Gabler, St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce managing director, and Hannah Brock, city public relations manager, spent Wednesday repairing lights in advance of the event.
According to Gabler, while the city owns more decorations, approximately 42 will be displayed this year.
“There’s probably $50,000 in lights going up,” she said.
“This is kind of an age old tradition to turn on the lights and light up the city,” Brock added. “It really brings the community together.”
“It draws thousands of people each year,” Gabler noted. “I have memories of these light from when I was a kid.”
The two noted the event is a cooperative effort between the city and the chamber of commerce. They noted city’s department of public works was key in allowing the event to continue smoothly by putting up the lights and designing a location map for them.
“It really streamlined it,” Brock said of the light map, designed by Deputy Public Works Director Travis Skrzypeck. “It took a lot of man hours to do it last year. He actually saved us a lot of work this year.”
This year’s event will feature a parade, with announcement duties being handled by The River 98.9.
The parade will start in front of St. Marys pharmacy and make its way backwards around the diamond, ending on Erie Avenue.
A live nativity will be featured.
“They actually have a camel,” Gabler said.
The Lions Club will offer hot chocolate and cookies at Farmers National Bank, where Santa will be in attendance. WRC Senior Services will offer popcorn, Dickinson Center will offer “reindeer food,” Tablespoons will offer “make-your-own” sugar cookies and the chamber will hold a basket raffle.
New this year, an ATV decorating contest will be featured.
“I put that on Facebook and its already had 13,000 views,” Gabler said. “I think there’s going to be a lot.”
Lights should go up over the next week, the two said.
Ridgway will host light up night Nov. 23 beginning at 6 p.m.
On Tuesday, Ridgway-Elk County Chamber of Commerce Director Tina Clancy and Ridgway Holiday Downtown Display Committee members Carol Jacobs and Kate Sagat were busy decorating the courthouse lawn in preparation.
Displays include lighted reindeer, a nativity scene, dozens of lollipop decorations, a Christmas tree, a gingerbread family, swags for the courthouse and lots of garland.
Eventually, according to Clancy, the gazebo will be decked out as a gingerbread house, deer will graze on the lawn and various other decorations will be in place nearby.
“One year we were asked to put up a tree by the commissioners and it kind of grew from there,” she said. “It just started out with me and Carol.”
The Ridgway Heritage Council handles additional downtown decorating, providing the wreaths and banners on lightposts on Main Street.
“The Heritage Council checked the lights in the wreaths last week,” Clancy said.
The two noted the nativity scene is not owned by the chamber, but provided by Trinity United Methodist Church with additional pieces provided by Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The group is looking for volunteers to help put the heavy pieces in place for display this year.
“The nativity scene is very old,” Jacobs noted. “We’d like to raise money to get a new one.”
In addition to decorations, light up night will feature Santa, who will be brought to town by the Ridgway Fire Department. Candy canes will be available for children and the group urged children to bring letters to drop off for St. Nick.
Additionally, Elk County Foods will provide hot cocoa.
The group is looking at ways to provide even wider holiday aesthetics next year, according to Jacobs.
“We would like to raise the money to continue decorating and see if we can get people to sponsor a tree on Main Street,” she said. “Each year they can sponsor a tree with a plaque, in memory of someone or in honor. We’d like to see all of Main Street sparkle with white lights.”
She said after the initial year, cost would be minimal.
“It would just be replacing lights,” according to Jacobs.