Light Up Middletown

The volunteer Grandpa Gang prepares for opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Thousands of visitors continue to make Light Up Middletown a part of their annual holiday tradition.

Light Up Middletown at Smith Park will begin its season on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, and will run through New Year’s Eve.

“I always get excited about opening that first night and making sure everything goes alright. It’s just that anticipation and thrill of seeing everybody go through,” said Flo Randall, founder of Light Up Middletown.

Randall and the volunteer Grandpa Gang, led by Barney Strassburger, have continued to prepare the park each season, adding more lights and new displays, annually. Overall, the park features more than 90 separate displays, many of which include multiple pieces. Three members of the Grandpa Gang, including Strassburger, Bill Dietz and Paul Brewer have been involved since the beginning.

Randall said, “We’re very proud of Light Up Middletown, and the guys are very proud of it. They take really good care of everything. The members of our Grandpa Gang are priceless. It’s so heartwarming to see them put their whole hearts into it, and how they feel about it. They feel like I do, because they started with it, and have continued working with it every year.”

Upon visiting, guests will experience themed displays, including a floating Sea Serpent in the reflecting lake, Santa’s Workshop, an American Flag, a Penguin Village and Deer Leaping Over the Roadway. Added in 2014, the 12 Days of Christmas display is another highlight.

As far as upgrades and new features, Randall said, about $20,000 was spent on electricity this year.

“We did not purchase any new displays this year, because we put the money in electricity that we needed, and we had to add on to our warehouse. Our warehouse was getting too small, so we put a 30-by-60 extension on to our warehouse,” she said.

Last year, the display attracted 74,039 people in 20,778 vehicles and 113 buses. Organizers said about 80 percent of the guests are from Butler and Warren counties.

With no set entrance fee, guests enter by a cash donation and set their own price of admission. Proceeds from the event are used to purchase additional light displays, repairs and for overall upkeep of the park.

Coffee and hot chocolate will be available for sale near the Santa House. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand in the Santa House from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings through Dec. 19. (Photos with Santa are available for $10 or two for $15.) This year’s hot-air balloon glow will be held on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 7:15 p.m. to 8 p.m., weather permitting.

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