Kennywood offers cold-weather thrills with Holiday Lights

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 9:59 p.m.

The moment guests walk through the tunnel at Kennywood, they will know that something special and unusual is happening at the West Mifflin historical amusement park, a spokesman says — starting with the fact that it's even open this time of year.

For the second year, the park is decking out some areas in yuletide decor for its Kennywood Holiday Lights event, featuring a million lights, a few rides, festive foods and drinks like hot chocolate, and the star of the show: Santa Claus, who will sit in a specially built, large roller coaster car at the Racer station to pose for pictures and take gift requests.

The lights that usually flash “Racer” now will flash “Santa,” says Kennywood spokesman Jeff Filicko. Christmas music, including from a live choir, will play throughout the park, which will have more than 50 live pine trees from the Indiana Tree Growers Association. A live show runs every half hour in the area surrounding the lagoon.

Holiday Lights visitors in 2011 gave overwhelmingly positive feedback and found the yuletide Kennywood delightful, Filicko says.

“They love the lights, the hot chocolate ... they loved every aspect of Holiday Lights,” he says. “It couldn't have gone any better for us. As soon as you come through the tunnel ... (you see) enormous trees are covered in lights, top to bottom. You know right away something is different at Kennywood.”

For this year's event, open Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 30, Kennywood added more nights — last year's event only offered three weekends — and expanded the participating area of the park to include the Kennyville Stage and the original Potato Patch. The park also will open the Turtle and holiday-decorated Ghostwood Estate this year, along with the usual Paratrooper, Merry-Go-Round, the Gingerbread Express on Old Kennywood Railroad, Kangaroo, Auto Race and up to nine rides in Kiddieland.

An amusement park open during cold months this time of year presents challenges, and the Kennywood staff has prepared for them with some changes. More of the restrooms now have heating, Filicko says. The staff will be ready for snow with plows in the parking lots and salt inside the park.

“I think people expect it to snow in December,” Filicko says. “Snowing will only enhance the experience.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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