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Time for Overly's Country Christmas

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2001

UNITED - The rain may have dampened most things at Overly's Country Christmas family night at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds on Thursday, but it didn't dampen the beginnings of Christmas spirit among the families there.

This is the 45th year that lights (1.2 million this year) have adorned carousels, coaches, buildings, windmills and numerous other things as part of Overly's Christmas experience.

According to David Fleeger, public relations coordinator for Overly's Country Christmas, Harry Overly started the annual tradition in 1957 when he began to decorate his home in Armbrust for the enjoyment of his four children and friends.

"This labor of love drew flocks of other outsiders and evolved into a community event," said Fleeger, who added that all the proceeds benefit the Overly's Lights for Little Ones Endowment Fund for children's scholarship and care.

Armbrust resident Connie Wilkinson has made Overly's a part of her family's tradition since it began, and brought 16 family members to the event on Thursday night.

"I brought my son when he was 1 or 2 years old and now we bring his daughter," said Wilkinson, who stated that Overly's is extra special because of the help that it generates for children.

"It's just a fun time all around for families, and if you're family oriented, this is what it's all about," she said.

Mary Sacriponte of Greensburg used to volunteer to help put up the lights when Mr. Overly still decorated at his house.

"Families seem to enjoy it because it gets them in the Christmas spirit," said Sacriponte.

Family activities seem to be even more important than ever before due to the events that have happened in the last few months.

"I think people's spirits need a lift at this time because of what's gone on this year," she said.

Edie Mahoney of Connellsville has gone to Overly's for the past three years.

"I love the lights, I love the music, I love the funnel cake," said Mahoney. "It's a good family activity with enough room for adults and children and enough visuals for kids to be in awe over."

Mahoney also feels that Overly's is a good place for people to get away from the events of the world and enjoy their families.

"In light of all the events in the past few months, it's even more important to keep in touch with the past and present and hope for the future," said Mahoney.

"And because this is a place that promotes good will and takes us back at the same time, it's a perfect place for families," she added. "This year, peace on earth takes on a whole new meaning."

Some new sights at Overly's this year include a 20x40-foot G-scale train display, a "Kids Express Train" that children can ride, performances by choral groups from local schools, churches and other organizations, and new handcrafted merchandise, including two new "Cat's Meow" collectibles at Overly's Gift Shop, The C. Edgar & Sons General Store.

Overly's Country Christmas will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, including holidays.

Admission is $8 per car and $10 per extended passenger van, mini-bus or motor home. For more information, call 1-800-9OVERLY (1-800-963-3759) or visit Overly's Web site at www.overlys.com .

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