OHIO VALLEY — The countdown to Christmas is on.
Despite the pandemic, across Gallia, Mason and Meigs counties, are countless opportunities to celebrate the season at free events, lighting displays and virtual Christmas activities, all of which provide opportunties to social distance.
Listed below are a sampling of some of these activites meant to inspire the holiday spirit across the tri-county.
Christmas lights, drive-thru events
W.Va. State Farm Museum
The West Virginia Farm Museum’s annual Christmas Light Show has been extended through Dec. 20. The drive-thru event is held nightly from 6-9 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. Due to the pandemic, visitors are only permitted to drive through the museum grounds. No walking tours will take place this year. The museum is located north of the city of Point Pleasant, across from the Mason County Fairgrounds.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the light show will not operate, because the grounds are reserved by LifeSpring Church for the annual Elf Hunt. Visitors to the Elf Hunt will still see the farm museum’s lights and machinery displays. The Elf Hunt is also free, but the church will have a contactless drop off site to leave a canned food item, which will be donated to the Point Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department’s Christmas food basket project.
Gallipolis In Lights
Despite some changes, City Park is once again aglow for the Christmas season thanks to the annual Gallipolis In Lights display, open nightly until Jan. 2. Admission is free. Several displays are closer to the road to allow visitors an opportunity to view more lights from their vehicles. The park is open for those who choose to walk through, however, found at several points within the display are posted safety guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those guidelines are as follows:
Practice social distancing of at least six feet;
Facial coverings are required at all times;
Share sidewalks, step aside to let others pass;
If you are sick, or were recently exposed to COVID-19, please do not enter the park.
The Christmas Light Show at Krodel Park is now open nightly from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. The drive-thru display is free though donations are appreciated. The show is open through the New Year’s holiday.
Christmas on the Ridge
Rio Ridge Venue, an events venue near the University of Rio Grande, is collaborating with Bob Evans Farms to host an event for families and children to still experience the joys of the holidays. The Dec. 13 event, which is free to the public, will be drive-through only and will feature a multitude of exciting stations. The event will feature various holiday favorites, including a Nativity with live animals, Santa Claus, who will arrive in a police car, a firetruck, Frosty the Snowman, elves, the Grinch, and live reindeer. The farm will also be decorated with lights, and treat bags will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Christmas on the Ridge was funded entirely by individual and community donations. The event begins at 5 p.m. at Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande.
Mason County Family Christmas
The annual Mason County Family Christmas event will be held this Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Mason County Board of Education Office parking lot from 10 a.m. – 11: 30 a.m. The event will be a drive-thru style this year due to the pandemic. The event, which is sponsored by the Mason County Family Resource Network (FRN), provides resources and activities for families in the county. Throughout the parking lot, organizations will have booths set up with various items for families and children. Participants will receive craft kits, books, snacks and even see Santa. FRN members said masks will still be required at the pick-up sites.
Displays by villages and towns
The Village of Racine has decorated trees at Star Mill Park. Numerous trees line the walking path at the park, decorated by businesses, organizations and individuals.
The City of Point Pleasant has decorated its annual city tree in Gunn Park and dedicated it to those who lost their lives to, and those who have been affected by, COVID-19. Placed in front of the tree is also a memorial wreath. The custom decorated trees from the Light of Christmas fundraiser for Mason County Toys for Kids also illuminate Gunn Park at Fourth Street. Downtown merchants have decorated Main Street. Lights have once again been placed at the Silver Bridge Memorial at Sixth and Main streets, in memory of those lost on Dec. 15, 1967.
The Town of Mason is hosting its “Trees in the Park” event in the Stewart-Johnson V.F.W./Lottie Jenks Memorial Park.
Residential light displays
MaryAnn and Carl Parsons welcome visitors to their display near Forked Run Lake in Meigs County each evening from 6-10 p.m., and encourage driving up their long dark driveway to get a better view.
John and Brandi Codner Davidson of Long Bottom in Meigs County welcome guests nightly through December with a personal greeting and a candy cane for each visitor. Cars can drive through, park in the parking lot, and walk along the driveway to view the displays. Visitors can tune to 87.9 to listen to Christmas music during their visit. The Davidson’s encourage checking their Facebook page: Davidson Family Christmas Light Show, before making the trip (47379 Riebel Road, Long Bottom) just in case the lights are off due to inclement weather.
Nick and Heather McKinney, at 2012 Maxwell Avenue, Point Pleasant, decorated their yard and house for the season and included a donation box to collect money for the annual food baskets distributed by the Point Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department. The donation box is directly at the end of the driveway and is available to drop off donations from 5-10 p.m. each evening. The McKinneys have 160 inflatables in their yard this year.
Virtual Christmas activities
The Gallipolis Junior Women’s Club offers storybook readings every night, now through Dec. 25 via its Facebook page. Guest readers will offer Christmas stories from 6-7 p.m. and at the end of the reading, randomly draw names from those watching/commenting on the storybook post to receive a free book.
Ariel Merry TubaChristmsa
Musicians from all over the region usually gather at the historic Ariel Opera House in Gallipolis, Ohio for the annual Ariel Merry TubaChristmas the second Saturday of December, though this year, plans were changed due to the pandemic. “In this most unusual year when we cannot gather in person, we are presenting a virtual Merry TubaChristmas,” stated a news release from the Ariel. “Visit https://arieltheatre.org/ and enjoy selections from several different years.”
(Editor’s note: This story is a reflection of some, though not all, Christmas events in the area. If your organization has a free community event not listed here, including special church service information, email it to editor Beth Sergent at [email protected] for publication consideration.)