Messenger photos by Mike Munden
Jeff Pfeil strings lights in preparation for West Jefferson’s Christmas.
|Pink lights will be featured on Sunday evening at this year’s West Jefferson Christmas in the Park celebration to help with the Madison County Hospital’s breast cancer awareness initiative. Testing the lights are Mona Flax, the hospital’s director of marketing and development, and Christmas in the Park coordinator Jeff Pfeil.|
Pink is the new color for West Jefferson’s “Christmas in the Park.” The change in hue supports the Madison County Hospital Foundation’s initiative to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer.
Each year since 1996, organizers of Christmas in the Park have added new features to their three-day holiday celebration and three-week-long light display at Garrette Park, which starts the second weekend in December and runs until Jan. 1. This year, the fight against breast cancer tops the list.
The Christmas in the Park celebration begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 with nightly activities continuing through Sunday, Dec. 9. The Posse band will perform from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Donations collected by the band and in donation jars throughout Garrette Park will go to the breast cancer initiative.
Last December, the hospital learned that Madison County had the highest death rate from breast cancer in the state, said Mona Flax, executive director of the Foundation.
“We had to take action to improve those numbers,” she said. “Early detection is absolutely critical.”
The Foundation formally launched its initiative earlier this year to raise $2 mil-lion for education, diagnosis, equipment and treatment in Madison County.
“We hope to reach that goal in three years,” Flax said. “We now have $450,000.”
West Jefferson resident Cory Coburn is planning activities for breast cancer survivors and others interested in participating while at Christmas in the Park.
Other highlights of the West Jefferson event are live reindeer, a lighted parade, nightly entertainment in a heated tent, carriage rides, hot food, a drawing for children’s gifts, an outdoor lighting contest and, of course, Santa Claus.
Santa will be in his house Dec. 7-9 at the park with a heated waiting area. Each child will receive a ticket for the Sunday night drawing, but they must be present to win. Visitors may take their own photos for free or purchase photos with Santa.
Anyone can participate in the lighted parade which starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Post 201 and travels down Main Street to Twin Street, ending at the park. Call Sandy Boucher, 614-879-9662, to sign up.
West Jefferson residents also are encouraged to enter the outdoor Christmas lighting contest. Those who wish to compete must be registered by noon on Dec. 5. Judges from outside the community will pick their favorites sometime between Dec. 5 and Dec. 8. Entrants’ homes must be lit from 6 to 10 p.m. each of those nights. First place wins $100 with $75 for second and $50 for third. Three honorable mention winners will win $20 gift certificates to local restaurants. Winners will be announced at 7:45 p.m. Sunday at park.
While residents are decking out their homes for the holidays, Jeff Pfeil of the West Jefferson Community Association has been working weekends and evenings since Nov. 3 to light up Garrette Park.
Pfeil volunteers about 100 hours each year to put up 300,000 lights for Christmas in the Park. He uses a 60-foot ZLG lift donated by United Rental to decorate the high spots while inmates from Orient Correctional Facility work on the ground, testing lights and decorating buildings and trees they can reach.
Other corporate sponsors include R.A. King Electric, West Jefferson Hardware, Mike’s Trucking, Adams Decorative Creations, Albanese Amusements, MTB Development and Steak ’n Shake.
Pfeil also is working to restore antique decorations donated by Bob Barton that include hand-painted, wooden cut-outs of Santa landing with a parachute and Santa with his sleigh and a team of reindeer. Pfeil estimates the decorations are nearly 60 years old.
Pfeil spoke nostalgically of enjoying the decorations displayed at the Barton home on Town Street behind the Marathon gas station.
“We couldn’t do this without all the donations,” Pfeil said of the decorations, equipment, supplies, funding and volunteer labor that go into Christmas in the Park.
The electricity alone costs nearly $5,000 to keep the park lit until Jan. 1.
As the kick-off approaches, Pfeil is looking for volunteers to help with finishing touches, and he is hoping for more monetary donations so that Christmas in the Park can remain free to the public with the exception of food and carriage rides.
People seem to appreciate the coming of Christmas in Park as they slow down to watch the work in progress.
Pfeil said a child stopped by while he was working one day, looked up at him and said, “Hey mister, whatcha doin’?”
Pfeil replied, “We’re putting up these Christmas lights so Santa can find us.”
The boy smiled and said, “Gee, thanks mister.”
For more information about any facet of Christmas in the Park, including contest entries, call 614-879-8188, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the event Web site at www.wjcip.com.
Schedule of Events
Friday, Dec. 7
5 p.m. Concessions open
5:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies featuring the West Jeff High School Gold Choir, Mayor Tom Phillips
6 p.m. Santa arrives and lighting ceremony
6 to 10 p.m. Santa Pictures
6:30 to 9:30 Carriage rides
7 to 10 p.m. Posse Band
Saturday, Dec. 8
5:30 p.m. Parade begins
6 to 10 p.m. Carriage rides, concessions open, Santa photos
7 to 9 p.m. Entertainment in the pavilion and live reindeer at the park
Sunday, Dec. 9
5:30 p.m. Lights on
6 to 9 p.m. Santa pictures, concessions open
6:30 p.m. Luminaries for breast cancer awareness
6:30 to 8:30 Posse Band performs for breast cancer awareness
7:15-9:30 Carriage rides
7:45 p.m. Lighting contest winners announced
8 p.m. Drawing for children’s gifts
Nightly through Jan. 1
Garrette Park lights will be lit