Local residents can herald the Christmas season this Friday with two traditional holiday destinations — Woodland Lights in Washington Twp. and the Dayton Holiday Festival.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Woodland Lights at Countryside Park, organizers are offering carriage rides, amusement rides, live animal displays, concessions and other activities every night the festival is open through December.
The festivities begin at 6 p.m. Friday at the park on the Washington Twp. Recreation Campus, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road.
The holiday lighting festival will be open from Friday through Sunday through Dec. 3, then will be open every night Dec. 8-30, except Dec. 24 and 25.
Woodland Lights is spread out over eight acres and transforms Countryside Park into a Christmas fairyland, where people can enjoy a fireside visit with Santa Claus in a historic log cabin.
New this year is a “selfie-friendly Grinch World exhibit designed by the Zoot Theatre Company,” according to the press release from Washington Twp.
Attendees can ride the carriage pulled by Percheron horses each night of the festival and music will play throughout the park, thanks to a mobile unit being provided by California Custom Sounds.
Sponsors stepped up to make this silver anniversary special, said Mark Metzger, Washington Twp. recreation facilities director.
Metzger said when the holiday festival began in the early 1990s, the hope was that this event would grow over time into a traditional, multi-generational destination.”
“That’s exactly what it’s turned out to be,” he said. “Most of the time you’ll see grandmothers and grandfathers with their grandchildren and mothers and fathers with their children … It’s definitely a routine event, and because there is so much entertainment, there’s something for everybody.”
This will be the 45th year the holidays kickoff in grand style in Dayton, with the Grand Illumination and Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights, which happens from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday at Courthouse Square.
The tree-lighting is set to happen at 7:45 p.m., followed by a 45-minute parade of festive floats, entertainers, animals and more attractions for children.
The Christmas tree will feature 100,000 lights, and another 100,000 are strewn about throughout the downtown area, according to Sandra Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.
“This is a long-time community tradition,” Gudorf said. “We’ve got moms and dads who remember coming as children and now they are bringing their children.”
The event marks the start of the month-long Dayton Holiday Festival, in which special events and activities are planned every night through December.
Gudorf said new this year will be the “Sugarplum Shuttle,” in which families can climb aboard a pedal wagon, enjoy free hot chocolate and ride around through the Oregon District, RiverScape MetroPark and the Schuster Center.
Returning for another year is the live reindeer display with a sleigh, in which families can pet the animals and take photographs.
There will also be the Family Movie Series at The Neon, The Tike’s Shoppe, Virginia Kettering’s Holiday Train Display, as well as animated window displays and entertainment in the Schuster Center Wintergarden.
The weather forecast indicates conditions will be dry and seasonably cool, with a high of 49 and low of 27 degrees.
The Dayton event is free to attend. Tickets for Woodland Lights are $8 and can be purchased at the website, woodlandlights.org. More information about the Dayton Holiday Festival can be found at downtowndayton.org.