Nov. 19—Santa ushered in the holiday season with a few simple words before the 2023 Winter Spirit Holiday Lights Display debuted Saturday at Lewiston's Locomotive Park.
"Merry Christmas to everybody," Santa said. "It's going to be a great holiday season."
Then, Santa joined a crowd of hundreds in counting down before thousands of lights in a rainbow of colors illuminated trees, decorations and the locomotive that is the park's namesake.
The moment was the climax of a ceremony with a variety of entertainment. Performers from Dance Dynamix, River City Dance and Footnotes kicked, cartwheeled and twirled on the stage.
The Lewiston High School Jazz Choir sang holiday music and an ensemble from Lewiston Civic Theater performed scenes from its upcoming production of "A Christmas Story."
A mix of people attended. Some were experiencing the community's kickoff to the holidays for the first time.
Mohan Rajendran, of Pullman, sat on the edge of the park's oversized fireplace and took a picture before the ceremony. He was with his wife and their 17-month-old daughter.
"It's pretty cozy," he said.
Others like Rachel Kelly-Douglas, of Lewiston, have made the event part of their family tradition for more than a decade.
She was there with her husband, nieces, nephews and friends. Usually her family gets a picture by the lighted archways along a sidewalk in the park.
She will likely be back several times in coming weeks, she said.
"When the kids were little it was, like, every night," Kelly-Douglas said. "We'd go walk around, or make our hot chocolate or go get dinner."
Preparing the display begins in October. For about five weeks, a group of seven or eight retirees worked almost full time on the project with additional volunteers joining them on weekends, said Jon Copeland, a volunteer.
The effort is fulfilling, Copeland said.
"It's a place that everybody can come down with their families and their kids," he said. "It does not cost them any admission price at all. ... It makes it all worthwhile when you see how excited the people are."
This year Becky Olinger, of Lewiston, volunteered for the first time. Everyone is incredibly organized, she said.
"You can ask any seasoned volunteer and they know exactly where everything is," she said. "It's an incredible process. ... I have enjoyed every single minute."
The display will be lit from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily through the second week in January. The fireplace and music will be on each day from 4:30-10 p.m. The lights will also be on from 4:30-7:30 a.m. daily for the enjoyment of morning commuters.
The Lewiston Police Department is encouraging motorists and pedestrians to be cautious.
"We ask that drivers traveling in and around the park to please slow down and watch for pedestrians crossing the roads," according to a news release issued by the Lewiston Police Department.
"For pedestrians crossing the road, please do so in a crosswalk and make sure you are watching for vehicular traffic," according to the news release. "With the event occurring at night, and with all the lights, drivers may not see you while you are crossing the road."
Williams can be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261.