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Kennywood unveils Holiday Lights

The area's famous West Mifflin amusement park has turned into a holiday wonderland of nearly 1 million lights, festive activities, local choirs, rides and sweet treats.

Kennywood's first Holiday Lights opens this evening from 5-9, followed by Saturday and Sunday at the same times and

There will be a special fireworks display over the Racer at 9 for opening night. Other dates are Dec. 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18, also from 5-9 p.m.

Holiday Lights was open Thursday for Kennywood employees and their families along with members of the press.

"This is the first time in our 114 seasons that we'll be open in the month of December," Kennywood general manager Jerome Gibas said. "We've spent the last few months planning light displays, hanging lights and working to make this a unique and memorable holiday experience."

Employee Iris Gettemy brought her husband Bob Gettemy and children Alaina, 10, and Dani, 13.

"It turned out beautiful," Iris Gettemy said.

"My favorite part was when I walked in and saw a bunch of beautiful lights," Alaina said. "It looked very pretty."

"I thought it was gorgeous," Dani said. "I really like the red string of lights above the games."

Gibas said opening Kennywood during December for holiday-theme activities has been an idea on the table for numerous years. He said park officials visited neighboring theme parks including Hersheypark, which has been open for the holidays for years.

"We visited Hersheypark about a year ago," Gibas said. "We came back and talked to the management team about the cost and planning. In February, we got the OK."

He said the planning and purchasing then began.

"We tried to do a little bit of everything to meet everyone's expectations," Gibas said, noting Holiday Lights has a manger, menorah and Santa.

He said Kennywood also has a snow plan and salt drums around the park in case of inclement weather.

Marie Ruby, director of ride operations, and Jeff Checcio, director of park operations, were the two main park employees responsible for the planning, designing and purchasing for Holiday Lights.

"It turned out awesome," Ruby said. "It's spectacular. It's better than I could have ever dreamed."

She credited employees for the park becoming what was envisioned.

"We had a lot of good people that put in a lot of long hours and hard work," Ruby said. "I can't talk enough about those who hung up the lights."

For those visiting during the first Holiday Lights season, Kenny Kangaroo and Parker the Kennywood Arrow will be decked out in their holiday garb ready to greet visitors. They will be joined by Frosty the Snowman, The Gingerbread Man and of course Santa Claus and his elves.

A 15-minute Holiday Lights Show with holiday songs is featured around the lagoon every 30 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. There will be two different versions of the show. At the Sounds of the Holiday Stage near the Parkside Cafe, local choirs will perform every 30 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The Gingerbread Express, which is a holiday edition of the Olde Kennywood Railroad, will be waiting to take guests on a ride full of Christmas magic. Other rides running during Holiday Lights are the Kangaroo, Paratrooper Carousel and certain Kiddieland rides.

The Penny Arcade has a station for youngsters to write letters to Santa Claus and have a meet-and-greet and/or See photo with Kenny Kangaroo. Santa also is available for photo opportunities at the Racer.

The holiday classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" will play at The Parkside Cafe, where guests can view the film's memorabilia, watch a model train display, decorate cookies and enjoy refreshments.

The Log Jammer area will have a live ice carving demonstration with ice carver Rich Bubin performing.

A trip to Kennywood wouldn't be complete without sampling the amusement park's variety of foods. Holiday Lights will have numerous food locations with sweets such as batter-dipped Oreos or Rice Krispie treats, funnel cake, kettle corn, s'mores, cotton candy, holiday pretzels, hot apple dumplings and fresh roasted nuts.

There will be three Potato Patch locations open as well as many other meal options.

Hot chocolate and hot apple cider will be available to warm up guests, in addition to other beverages.

There are opportunities to purchase souvenirs and gifts at the gift shop or from vendors Maria's Custom Creations and artist Linda Barnicott.

Admission is $12.99 plus $1 amusement tax. There are $2 off coupons available at participating Giant Eagle locations. Children age 2 and younger get in for free. There also is no charge for parking.

For more information on Holiday Lights, visit www.kennywood.com or call 412-461-0500.

Photo Galleries

Kennywood Lights

Kennywood Lights

Kennywood's premier holiday light show at the park on Thursday evening, December 1, 2011.

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