Ten days from now, you can go walking through a well-known, extraordinarily well-lit winter wonderland in St. Albans before you can drive through it evenings during the upcoming Christmas season.
You can also choose to ride through the extravagantly electric wonderland while youāre perched upon a hay bale or two, too, a day later and two days before its official opening.
The St. Albans Parks and Recreation Department announced the schedule of events for the 35th annual Festival of Lights holiday spectacle at St. Albans City Park earlier this month, and the schedule includes a couple of preview opportunities before the festival opens to Christmastime caravans of motorized traffic. (On average, at least 10,000 vehicles travel through the park during each year of the festival.)
The thousands of holiday lights are largely LED powered now, but the spirit and spectacle of the festival remain traditionally brilliant as finishing touches are still being installed.
āThe guys are getting it all set up right now. Itās about a month-and-a-half-long process to get it set up and going. All of my 12 guys are working their shifts to get it done. They have other park responsibilities, but this is the main focus right now,ā St. Albans Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Kevin Pennington said.
Walking and hayride tours
From 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21, visitors can partake of free, preview walking tours of the light displays in the park.
Walkers can gather at the St. Albans High School parking lot at 2100 Kanawha Terrace by 5:30 p.m. The tour will begin at the high school and continue to St. Albans City Park, concluding with a return walk to the SAHS parking lot.
Free hayrides through the displays will be offered from 6 until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22, following a similar itinerary. Visitors should meet by 5:30 p.m. at the St. Albans High parking lot, where shuttles will transport them to the hayrides at the park and back to SAHS.
āMy favorite night is when we have the hayrides,ā Pennington confided. āThe whole family can enjoy the lights and not have to focus on driving and everything else. We started the hayrides seven years ago, and theyāve been a huge success every year. A lot of people tend to go to them; their families are coming in then and before getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, they come out for the hayrides on Wednesday.ā
The official Opening Night of the Festival of Lights will occur from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 24, when the displays will open to vehicular traffic through the park.
The Festival of Lights will then be open from 6 until 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 23. The Festival will be on closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with a grand finale appearance of the displays on Dec. 26.
The Santa House
The Santa House at St. Albans Roadside Park is a new feature for 2023 to complement the Festival of Lights. Located at the park along the Kanawha River off U.S. 60 (MacCorkle Avenue), the Santa House will feature free conversations and photo opportunities with Santa Claus, who is expected to be accompanied by special guests throughout the season.
Pennington said the decision to construct the Santa House was partially a matter of logistics to facilitate traffic flow at the festival. āThe guys and I had talked about it a lot. We used to have Santa on top of the lights at the pool. Then COVID hit, which closed it down. We moved him, and Santa would just stay at the bottom and wave at the kids. We wanted to bring Santa back to the way it was, but we really picked up the number of vehicles that came through once COVID hit ā we were the only game in town then. A lot of people discovered us then and starting coming to the festival.
āBy doing the Santa House at Roadside Park, that should make it quicker to drive through the Festival of Lights. Itāll be set up at the lower end of park, and thereās plenty of parking down there,ā Pennington said.
āThis frees people up if they want to see Santa before or after they go to the Festival of Lights,ā St. Albans Mayor Scott James said.
Specific visit dates and times of the Santa House will be announced in the near future on the City of St. Albans website and the St. Albans Parks and Recreation Departmentās website and Facebook page.
āThis will be my seventh Festival of Lights since Iāve been mayor,ā James said, ābut Iāve probably been every year since its existence. I go up and work it a couple of times each year, and Becky and I go through it and take the grandbabies. Itās a great event for St. Albans residents, but also for people from all over the state and other states who come through. Itās a way to bring people to our community; they may stop and eat here before or after, so itās a good economic boost for our community.
āWhatās so cool about it is that we buy some of the stuff for the festival, but a lot of it is handmade by the Parks guys,ā the mayor added. āTheyāll draw something up on the floor, heat up the metal rods and cut them for the design they want. You talk about talented ā our guys do a heck of a job on that.
āAs for the light show itself, some people consider it the best in the state. They go to Oglebay Park and other places, and itās subjective, but they like ours better. It is one of the premier light shows in the Tri-State area, no if, ands or buts about it,ā James said.
If you go ...The Festival of Lights is free to attend, although donations of money and canned food items are welcome to contribute each evening. The monetary contributions support the festivalās operating expenses, while the food items will be distributed to local food banks.
St. Albans City Park is located at 931 Observatory Drive.
For more information about the 2023 St. Albans Festival of Lights and the Santa House, visit or contact the St. Albans Parks and Recreation Department at 304-722-4625 or .