Overly's Country Christmas to open its gates on Friday
Overly's Country Christmas at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant Township officially opens its gates on Friday for the 2013 holiday season.
“I've lost count of how many lights we do have but I can say that we are approaching a few million,” said Stephanie Tomasic, event director. “We have been in the process of changing them over to LED lights which are much more energy efficient but they are also expensive.”
Volunteers began working on the site right after Labor day, cleaning and clearing the grounds and then stringing the thousands of lights in early October.
“We have about 600 volunteers throughout our season with a core group of about 100,” Tomasic said. Volunteers come from all over the area and include youth groups and other organizations. “We would never be able to do this without all the volunteers.'
Volunteer Harriet Ellenberger of Norvelt enjoys the work at Overly's and is happy to be a part of the experience every year.
“It's something that I enjoy doing because I know that it brings happiness to other people,” Ellenberger said. “It makes me happy too.”
Tomasic said she was worried when the State Correctional Institute closed its doors this past year because she relied upon inmates who were part of the Community Work Program to do a lot of the manual labor needed to get the massive display up and running.
“The Westmoreland County Commissioners approached us about helping out and they arranged for guys from the Westmoreland County Prison to come out and help,” Tomasic said. “There is a lot of labor intensive work here and I can honestly say that for once in my life I cannot find the words of appreciation for our county commissioners who made this possible.”
Those who visit the site will have the opportunity to drive through the grounds that features dozens of trees, displays and attractions. Visitors can also park and get out and walk, visit the bonfire, the Harman Station with its huge train display, take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, grab something to eat or visit with Henny the Hemlock and Santa.
All money collected at the gates goes to the Overly's Country Christmas nonprofit which funds things such as “Make-a-Wish” and “Family Moments.”
The “Family Moments” programs are administered through a partnership with the Tickets For Kids Foundation, serving low income and at-risk families in Westmoreland, Fayette, Somerset and Allegheny counties and providing approximately 1,500 children yearly with a memorable holiday experience. Additionally, Overly's provides a similar program to kids with life-threatening illnesses and terminally-ill patients and their families.
“I will never be able to thank the volunteers and everyone who make this all possible enough for doing this and making it all happen,” Tomasic said. “I am so very appreciative to each and every one.”
Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The season will end Jan. 1.
Overly's will be closed on Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 and 9.
Cost will be $12 per car, Monday through Thursday and $15 Friday through Sunday.
The cost for commercial vehicles will be $20.
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.