First Holiday of Lights planned in Morris

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarJoe Kolka, Otsego County Fair president, and Mike Crane, fair director, right, hang a string of Christmas lights on the EMS building at the fairgrounds in Morris on Monday.

Otsego County Fair board directors are working to transform the fairgrounds into a holiday light show for the first time.

People can drive through the fairgrounds in Morris and view the displays set up by area businesses and organizations, said Joe Kolka, Otsego County Fair president.

The first show will begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, and will resume from 5 to 9 p.m. each day until Saturday, Dec. 14.

There will also be guided tours available on a covered wagon, according to the Holiday of Lights’ Facebook page. Admission is $5 per carload and $1 per person if they walk in, said Lisa Jones, fair manager and board director. The light show will be accompanied by holiday music playing over the fairgrounds, she said. 

After finishing the light show, guests may park or get off the wagon and visit Santa Claus at the old log cabin, eat homemade sugar cookies and sip hot chocolate. While supplies last, Santa will also give out free gifts to children from Walmart and Dollar General each night of the event. 

Kolka said he came up with the idea for the light show about two years ago when his sister-in-law showed him pictures of holiday displays at Hershey Park. 

“It just kind of clicked, we should do something like that here,” Kolka said 

Kolka also said he was inspired by fond memories of his grandparents taking him to holiday displays around Rockland County when he was growing up. 

“If another kid feels that way, this was all worth it,” Kolka said. “All the time and effort put into this event.”

Jones said the event will bring more off-season use to the Otsego County Fairgrounds, which hosts a haunted house in the fall and is also used for storage. Local sponsors are supporting the event and eight fair board directors are putting on the show, she said.

The directors are responsible for lights maintenance, making sure the route is cleared of snow, buying supplies, working the ticket booth, coordinating with the businesses and organizations to get their displays up and coming up with filler displays if something falls through, among other things.

“We have to wait now until tomorrow night to see who shows up and then whoever doesn’t, we are filling in the spaces,” Jones said. “I’ve cleaned out Walmart and Lowe’s of extension cords, it’s been a lot of shopping.”

Fair board director Matt Crane said he’s excited about bringing a light show to a rural area where people may not have had as many opportunities to see one. 

“They can drive 15, 20 minutes over whatever hill they see, pop in right here, see Santa Claus and get a toy,” Crane said. 

According to organizers, here have been some misadventures in the process, including tools breaking, injuries and learning how many lights can be hooked together before fuses start getting blown. Crane and Kolka spent 12 hours building a lights tunnel, and the crew has spent many late nights getting things together, Jones said. 

She said the success of this year’s haunted house and hard work of the fair board — which she said is new and has relatively young members — indicates that the light show will go well, too. 

“I have no doubts whatsoever that come Thursday night, this is going to be an amazing light show,” Jones said, “because we will make sure that it is.”

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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