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Williamsport park transformed for holidays

December 14, 2000

Williamsport park transformed for holidays



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Byron Memorial ParkWILLIAMSPORT - The Grinch glows green in Byron Memorial Park.

The holiday humbug with a heart two sizes too small is among dozens of Christmastime decorations on display at Williamsport's winter wonderland.

Past the 60-foot community Christmas tree and on both sides of a winding park road lined with light post displays, decorations ranging from Nativity scenes to skating bears twinkle with tens of thousands of lights.

Model reindeer pull Santa's sleigh in front of the town's community building. Winnie-the-Pooh and friends rest among light-swirled trees.

Angels trumpet beside the town library, and ornamental soldiers flank a garland-covered train.

Thousands of visitors from throughout the Tri-State area drive through the park each December to see the seasonal spectacle that gets bigger every year, Town Supervisor Jeff Long said.

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"It's just become a fairly big thing. And It's here for the community to enjoy," Long said. "It's the nicest time of the year."

A near constant stream of vehicles parades nightly through the only municipal park in Washington County that undergoes a vast transformation for the holidays, said Long, who would like to see other towns decorate their parks.

"It just seems like this helps bring the community together," he said. "You can really make something nice for a little bit of money."

The Williamsport Town Council budgets about $2,000 a year for the display, and creating the park's festive atmosphere is a "total town employee effort," Long said.

Town workers search for bargains on new decorations each year, and stretch the town funds by installing the display during their "slack time" and building some of their own steel holiday fixtures, he said.

Long and his eight-member crew constructed the lighted castle, dump truck and backhoe in the park.

"The guys probably take more pride in this than they do anything else throughout the year," Long said.

He and his crew spend several weeks stringing lights around trees, gazebos and pavilions and setting up the steel frame decorations. Staff members at Town Hall order ornaments and field phone calls.

Mayor John Slayman makes his 5 p.m. pilgrimage to the park each day to turn on the display, Long said.

The seasonal exhibit has become such a hit that outside organizations hope to get involved next year.

Larry Earnest, production manager at Allegheny Energy Supply, has offered to provide discounted materials to Long and his crew in exchange for construction of a number of new holiday scenes, Long said.

He said he welcomes other decoration requests.

"We'll try our best to get them in the park if they're within reason," Long said.

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