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Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland lights up Butler with Southern charm

| Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, 9:04 p.m.
Santa will have a chair fit for a king at Shadrack's, and volunteers Steve Hinterberger and John Gibson get Santa's corner ready for the visitors.
Joyce Hanz
Santa will have a chair fit for a king at Shadrack's, and volunteers Steve Hinterberger and John Gibson get Santa's corner ready for the visitors.
Lights are being strung for the opening of  Shadrock's Christmas Wonderland at the Big Butler Fairgrounds.
Joyce Hanz
Lights are being strung for the opening of Shadrock's Christmas Wonderland at the Big Butler Fairgrounds.
This poinsettia display is one of 78 in the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, W.Va.
Oglebay Park
This poinsettia display is one of 78 in the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, W.Va.
Nick Ramela of Harrison City and his girlfriend Jackie Gillis of Greensburg enjoy an evening at Overly's Country Christmas at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.
Brian F. Henry | Trib Total Media
Nick Ramela of Harrison City and his girlfriend Jackie Gillis of Greensburg enjoy an evening at Overly's Country Christmas at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.
A vehicle drives through the light display at Overly's Country Christmas at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.
Tribune-Review
A vehicle drives through the light display at Overly's Country Christmas at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.
Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland tests the lights for the new display at the Big Butler Fairgrounds.
Submitted
Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland tests the lights for the new display at the Big Butler Fairgrounds.

Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland reigns supreme in the South. This season, the display is headed north, offering Butler County a new Christmas experience.

Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland, in partnership with Butler County, makes its Pennsylvania debut this weekend at the Big Butler Fairgrounds, promising a holiday light show elevated to a whole new level.

It's massive and new, and features Santa's Village, with Santa Claus ready to pose for family photos.

Billed as the world's largest drive-through light show, Christmas Wonderland is headquartered in Bristol, Tenn., and uses the latest high-tech entertainment over a three-mile Christmas-themed car route.

“My colleague attended a Shadrack's Christmas light show in Asheville, N.C.,” says Jack Cohen, president of Butler County Tourism. “I pitched Butler County to them, asked them to come up for a visit, and they did.”

Cohen rolled out the Pennsylvania countryside red carpet and Shadrack's liked what this region has to offer.

With open space and infrastructure already established, the fair grounds is a perfect fit for Shadrack's expansion.

“We are enjoying Pittsburgh and everyone has been so nice and this is our first time testing the market outside of our Southern shows in five other locations,” says Shadrack's general manager Shannon Glover. “We drove up three tractor-trailers and have been setting up for almost a month.”

Santa will need his sunblock as the theme this year is “Santa's Beach Party.”

Ten Christmas songs play on a continuous loop over visitors' car radios as the millions of LED lights dance in precise synchronization to the music. The drive through takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

This is the first time Shadrack's has done a show in the North, and Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau recently signed the company to a five-year commitment.

Shadrack's covers all set-up expenditures and hopes to draw more than 100,000 visitors from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and surrounding areas.

Shadrack's operates light shows in Asheville, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; Sevierville, Tenn.; Greenville, S.C.; and Charlotte, N.C.

The family-run Shadrack business started with a boat dealership and campground in Bristol. During the slow winter months when business lulled, the Shadrack family started building and developing ideas for Christmas Wonderland. They hosted their first light show in 2007 and the tremendous response has led to annual expansions.

“We want to wow people,” Glover says. “We change our show themes annually, so it is fresh and different.”

Glover says that weekends are the most popular time, and wait times can be long.

“Please visit us Monday through Thursday, if possible, to avoid long wait times,” Cohen says.

Christmas Wonderland donates a portion of all proceeds locally in the six host cities — Pittsburgh's Project Bundle Up will benefit from the Butler show this year.

Cohen is pleased that Shadrack's chose the Butler area out of many other venues considered.

“This is something seasonal for people that we can count on for five years or longer,” Cohen says.

Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 3. Admission is $25 per carload; $40 for mini-buses and $80 for tour/school buses. The show is at the Big Butler Fairgrounds, 776 Unionville Road, Prospect. Details: visitbutlercounty.com/Lights

Overly's Country Christmas

This year, Mrs. Snowman and Junior will be joining the 21.5-foot-high snowman built last year at Overly's Country Christmas by the American Welders Society student chapter at the Westmoreland County Community College Technology Center.

The Snowman Family will debut this weekend at the annual light display and Christmas Village at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds. Other new light displays include Chestnuts Roasting, Christmas candles and packages and a remake of Harry Overly's Christmas bells, which were originally on the side of his home when the tradition began in 1956.

A collection of starflakes once used in the city of Greensburg and surrounding areas have been remanufactured to become a part of Overly's lights.

Besides the drive-through light display, Overly's has a Christmas Village to walk through with live animals, Santa, a model train and other activities, including a horse-drawn sleigh.

Overly's Country Christmas will from run through Jan. 1 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturday. Closed Nov. 23 to 25; drive-through only on Dec. 24 and 25. Admission is $12 per car or family van, Mondays through Thursdays, $15 on Fridays to Sundays; $22 for commercial vehicles, large vans, limousines and recreational vehicles daily. Cash only. Details: overlys.com

Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights

Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, W.Va., has been flipping the switch annually for the Winter Festival of Lights since 1985.

It has been named one of the 10 Best Christmas Light Displays in the U.S. by AOL Travel and been featured on the Travel Channel's “Extreme Christmas Celebrations.”

The six-mile drive has 80 light displays, including a 300-foot-long tunnel with 30 arches of multicolored lights. The festival also includes the Garden of Light, with 150 hanging baskets of light plus thousands of lighted flowers and trees, and a light-and-music display at the Good Zoo.

Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights is open through Jan. 3 from dark to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is a per-car donation. Details: 800-624-6988 or oglebay-resort.com

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