FAIRMONT — You don’t have to drive to Oglebay to see fabulous Christmas lights.

The 14th annual Celebration of Lights has taken over Morris Park and turned it into a holiday wonderland.

The festivities kicked off Saturday night with the 4th Annual Market in the Park, where vendors from around the area set up booths among the lights to sell their goods and give patrons a sneak peak at the light displays.

“This really is the start of our holiday season at Celebration of Lights,” Tygart Valley United Way CEO Brett White said. “Tonight the park is closed to traffic and it’s just a walker night.”

Pedestrians parked their cars at either East Fairmont High or East Marion Park and took shuttle buses to Morris Park.

As folks walked the 1.3 mile loop, members of the Fairmont Senior Band and Madrigal Choir performed for guests. Vendors sat under their tents with their wares, and food trucks sold hot chocolate and warm food to the crowd.

The Celebration of Lights will officially begin its season on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. Admission Saturday was $5 for adults and free for children. All proceeds benefit the United Way.

The celebration is the largest contributor to the United Way’s fall campaign each year. Last year, it raised $75,000 and the organizers are hoping for another record year.

Since the Marion County United Way absorbed Barbour, Randolph and Tucker counties earlier this year, the need for funding is bigger than ever. This year’s campaign goal is set at $620,000 and White says they’re just about half way there.

“We’re just under 50 percent. We’re right there at about half way,” White said. “That’s a good place to be right now, we extended the campaign into the new year ... so we feel good about things.”

Rosemary Thomas, co-chair of the United Way Campaign, said she’s grateful to see the donations rolling in smoothly.

“We are getting a great response and our number of donations is going strong and completely on par,” Thomas said. “Our online auction wrapped up this morning and raised over $15,000.”

The money the United Way raises during its fall campaign funds all of its sponsored programs throughout the year. After a year that was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, both White and Thomas remind the public of the importance of the programs these dollars fund.

“If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that people have needs and sometimes we know about them and sometimes we don’t,” Thomas said. “The United Way agencies have stepped up to the plate. I think the importance of this campaign is to remind people that they don’t have to face adversity alone.”

White agreed.

“The agencies rely on the dollars we provide and it’s critical services to our community,” White said. “We provide funding to 46 difference programs and 39 agencies and those agencies have been working on the front lines for the past two year. These dollars are critical to them.”

The Celebration of Lights will officially open Nov. 26 and continue throughout the month of December. For a full schedule, visit its website at www.celebrationoflightswv.com or find it on Facebook by searching @celebrationoflightswv.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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