Festival Lights Up Holidays For Needy

ST. MARYS — An annual festival that lights up the city while helping a local food pantry continues to grow each year.

The Festival of Lights, sponsored by the St. Marys Community Partnership, will open during Winterfest — sponsored by the St. Marys Optimist Club — and will remain active from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 21 at the High Street parking lot. The event, which encourages individuals, businesses and organizations to build lighted displays, collects non-perishable food items, new or slightly worn clothes, and new or slightly used children’s toys for Agape.

“We want to help support the businesses and promote St. Marys,” St. Marys Community Partnership President Jeremy Holtzapple said.

The event, in its third year, has grown since its inception. This year, prizes will be awarded to the top four displays.

“For the businesses involved, it helps promote them,” Holtzapple said. “We have quite a few people who come through and when you count the people who were there for Winterfest, we had well over 500 people in the park. There’s no charge to enter the display, we just collected canned goods.”

Last year, the festival brought in 11 large tubs of canned goods and toys that were donated to Agape for distribution to local needy families. Holtzapple said he hopes to top that number this year.

“It brightens up the community and helps spread Christmas cheer,” he said. “We had one gentleman who came through three times with his family because he really enjoyed it.”

During its first year, the festival was held at K.C. Geiger Park and moved to the High Street parking lot last year — teaming up with Winterfest. In addition to the festival and Winterfest, Santa’s House will be open during the same hours of operation.

“It’s gotten larger every year,” Holtzapple said of the festival. “We have more and more people who come through and that lets us collect more and more canned goods.”

The deadline to participate in the display contest is Nov. 27. The Festival of Lights goes live during Winterfest, which is scheduled for Dec. 8. Anyone who wants to volunteer to help out during the Festival of Lights can contact Holtzapple at 419-733-1428.