For some it's never easy when longstanding Christmas traditions go on hiatus, but Centralia city councilor Lee Coumbs and a group of volunteers are feverishly working to resurrect a tradition that has been long-absent in the Twin Cities to take their place.
"Centralia Community Church isn't doing their live nativity this year and Bethel Church isn't doing its singing Christmas tree, and there were a few people that were disappointed," Coumbs said Monday. "But there's no better time to bring back something we haven't done in at least 30 years here."
For the first time in decades, people of Lewis County will have an opportunity to enjoy a drive-through light and Christmas decoration display at Borst Park beginning Dec. 16. The last known such display for the holidays hosted by Centralia or Chehalis was at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds years ago, where families could drive through a display for the mere cost of a donation to the local food banks.
"This concept is pretty much the same as what we had then," Coumbs said. "We're going to call it Old Town Christmas."
A series of 30 life-sized Christmas cards will grace the Borst Park Christmas Light Show, which will entail the entire Borst Park loop. Volunteers from Centralia High School's construction class, Lewis County Work Opportunity, Centralia College Rotaract, Destiny Christian Center and many other independent volunteers are helping set up light arrays and build props through this weekend for the drive-through tour.
True Value Hardware provided lights for the display and Lincoln Creek Lumber donated wood for the lanterns, which the Centralia students helped create.
Coumbs said a giant highlight - literally - is an 8-by-15-foot star that will grace the entrance to the display, with angels flying around it. The display will also feature a life-sized nativity scene, as well as cutouts of the North Pole and Santa Claus, sure to please the children.
"I've got about 10 of these light displays hanging out at my garage, so I'm bringing them over," Coumbs laughed.
Mary Ann Alvarado, a student at Centralia College, said she and her fellow business students designed the logo and helped get the word out to various volunteer groups in the area. The work was part of the class, but several of her classmates will work above and beyond what was required for their final grade as they will host the event Christmas Eve.
"We've been helping with this for so long and I'm really excited to see what it's going to be like this year and each year afterward," Alvarado said. "It's in a perfect location, and I think a lot of the kids especially are going to love it."
Coumbs said Centralia City Light received an economic development grant to help pay for lighting costs, and the Centralia Parks and Recreation Department donated use of Fort Borst Park. As such, the city of Centralia did not have to pay out of its own pocket for the display and isn't sponsoring or presenting it -- rather, the display pays homage to the volunteers that made it happen, Coumbs said.
"We've got a lot of first-time volunteers who are helping with this and that's great because we didn't want to put a big burden on groups that are already active in other holiday offerings," Coumbs said. "This is something I always wanted to get involved in, and I think everyone's going to enjoy it. It looks great so far."
Christopher Brewer: (360) 807-8235