In a holiday season like no other, many local traditional events were canceled in order to follow state guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the 10th annual Fort Borst Park Drive-Through Lights remained on the calendar, and more than 40,000 people drove through the lighted Centralia park.
A total of 12,170 vehicles rolled through carrying 42,180 people, Centralia Mayor Susan Luond said. That’s nearly double the 22,000 people who saw the lights in 2019. The Fort Borst Park Drive-Through Lights opened on Friday, Dec. 4, and remained open each night after from 5 to 9 p.m. until Dec. 26.
A food drive was held again this year as non-perishable food was collected at the entrance of the light display. Luond said that there were 10 full “carloads” of food collected, six more carloads than last year. The food was in turn donated to The Salvation Army, Gather Church and the Chehalis Food Bank.
“There was a tremendous amount of food this year. People were so generous. I was so glad that the Centralia Parks Department decided to go through with the event,” Luond said.
The Fort Borst Drive-Through Light Display was operated each night by a group of volunteers from a local nonprofit organization looking to raise money for their cause.
“It’s like a little fundraiser for them. That’s what’s so unique about the event — you can keep your prices down and our little nonprofit groups, they can have a fundraiser, and for some of them, this was the first fundraiser they were allowed to have this year,” Luond said.
Some of the groups that ran the event for a night included ARTrails, Napavine FFA, Centralia Lions Club, Boy Scout Troop 317, Centralia College Booster Club and Girl Scout Troop 1920.
The cost for each vehicle to take the journey through the park was $5. A portion of the total funds collected each night went toward the Centralia Parks Department for maintenance and to the Fort Borst Blockhouse renovation project.
Individuals with Centralia Little League were in charge of setting up the dozens of light displays in 2019 and 2020.
Luond said that during past years, buses and nursing home vans would come through the park, but this year, in order to ensure social distancing, people didn’t go through in that manner. She said that people were coming to Fort Borst Park from all over the region — from Vancouver to Aberdeen to Olympia.
“It was so surreal to me. I think it was the first Saturday but there was a car entering on one end of the park and one leaving at the other end and it was bumper to bumper all the way through. Just the people and the cheerfulness and the kid’s excitement, it was so worth it,” Luond said. “For this year especially, it was a heart-lifting event.”
Sponsors for the 10th annual Borst Park Drive-Through Light Display included LeMay Enterprises, Pape Machinery, Sierra Pacific, The Chronicle, Chehalis/Centralia Optimists, Thorbeckes Fitness Center, Lee and Bonnie Coumbs, Family Dentistry — James King, DDS, Centralia City Hall employees, Wilson & Wilson Dentistry, Centralia Firefighters Local 451, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, the Centralia City Council, Hag’s Automotive and Kresky Auto Repair & Electric.