Holiday bling: Light display gives back to community

Laughter and the delicious smell of park food are still floating through the summer air at Lakemont Park & Island Waterpark when park staff start thinking more about the crooning of Bing Crosby and sipping hot chocolate.

“They start bulbing the displays the last week of August when we get our huge light bulb order in … and then we close the weekend after Labor Day and right away as things go down, rides go down, we put up the lights, so it’s a two-, three-month project,” general manager Melissa Vyborny said of putting on the park’s annual Holiday Lights on the Lake display.

And now all that hard work is paying off to the delight of young and old with the 17th year for the popular drive through the holiday display of lights. It opened Friday and runs 6 to 10 p.m. each night through Jan. 5.

“It’s a great event,” Vyborny said. “Everyone here at the park really enjoys it. Nobody complains about getting ready for it. Everyone just really has a good time with it. All the guys and girls who put the lights up from September through November they find different new things to do every year, new things to decorate, new different types of lights to put up. … They are really creative with it, so it’s really a fun event for us.”

While the light display is a fun attraction, it also gives back with a portion of the money from its more than 150 sponsors going to a good cause each year.

Last year’s recipient of Lakemont Park Lighting Up Lives fund went to the Johnstown-based Cuddles For Kids.

In 2006, a then 10-year-old Conner Hagins founded the charity that “donates new stuffed animals, childrens books and toys to hospitals and children advocacy groups,” according to its website,

The charity received $3,000, Vyborny said.

“I was shocked and so honored that Lakemont Park Lighting Up Lives chose my charity Cuddles for Kids last year. It was the single largest donation that we have received to date,” Hagins said in an email. “The fact that they believed so much in what I, a teenager, was doing was very humbling.”

This year’s recipient will be chosen in the next few weeks, Vyborny said.

Santa’s Village with a gift shop is open, and the big guy himself is available for a visit or a photo until Dec. 23. Model trains from the Alto Model Train Museum Association are on display. Refresh-ments are also available.

On Jan. 5, the park will pick the winner of the “What Did the Grinch Steal?” game.

Entry forms are available when entering the park. The object is to spot the Grinch who is stealing items throughout the park and write down everything you see him putting in his sack. You can deposit the form at the gift shop, making you eligible for the $1,000 grand prize.

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.