Santa Rides With the Riverside Fire Authority

Kids look out the backseat window of a car at the Borst Park Christmas Lights on last year in Centralia.

The Borst Park Drive-Thru Light Display in Centralia attracted about 6,500 vehicles, 300 more than last year, transporting 22,300 people along the festively lighted path and collected “four full car loads” of canned goods at the food drive, organizers said this week.

The event began Dec. 6 and continued through Dec. 25, running for four hours each night. As a result of the heavy rain and flood warning in Lewis County the week before Christmas, the park closed on Friday Dec. 20 as a precaution to the possibility of the Fort Borst Lake’s water level raising and putting some of the driving areas underwater. Luckily there was not any flooding from the lake and the park was open again on Saturday night.

“We were really lucky. We really had a good year. There was no vandalism done to any of the lights. There was nothing taken, knock on wood. It went really smooth,” said Susan Luond, Centralia city councilor and treasurer to the Centralia Little League, the organization that coordinated the Borst Park Drive-Thru Light Display this year.

Luond said that among the 6,500 vehicles there were nine buses, carrying 20 to 30 people, that drove through the park. 

“The thing that was really interesting to us was that people would drive by on the freeway and see (the lights) and they would get off at the next exit and come back,” said Luond. 

Luond said that her car’s trunk and back seats were full of donated food on each of the four trips she made to Gather Church’s Cafe.

“We took in a lot of food. Everyone was very generous,” said Luond. 

Each night a different group of people representing various organizations would work the drive through lights and collect the money and canned goods. A few of the organizations that were represented included: Love INC of Lewis County, American Legion Baseball, The Napavine Future Farmers of America (FFA), The Centralia Fox Theatre, Centralia Lions Club, Guardian Friends of Lewis County.

“It really touches your heart the amount of people that will come and work the drive through lights in order to get a little bit of money for the group that they work so hard to support. And they do a wonderful job,” said Luond.

She said that scheduling a group to work each night was easy because the organizations are so eager to raise money for their cause. Luond said she had made the work schedule for every night of the drive through lights before Thanksgiving and said she already has organizations on the list for next year.

Luond said that she heard part of the vision for next year’s drive through light display and the plans are looking to expand across the pond and up into the trees. 

Luond recalled the humble beginnings of what is now The Borst Park Drive-Thru Light Display.

“This whole concept started with Lee Coumbs maybe 10 or 15 years ago as just a nativity scene and a couple other things over at the fairgrounds and this is what it’s progressed to from his idea. Something like this does not happen overnight,” she said.