Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Snow in forecast for Newport News Park’s Celebration in Lights

NEWPORT NEWS — Snow in Southeastern Virginia, especially from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, doesn’t appeal to many people.

Andy Lunsford, however, said he’d like nothing better than a winter wonderland that time of the year, but only in a specifically location.

“Our hope is … it’s going to be snowing at Newport News Park,” said Lunsford, the park operation superintendent with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

The reason for Lunsford’s not-so-sunny outlook is one of the new attractions for Newport News’ annual Celebration in Lights is a snow machine.

Lunsford would like it to be 60 degrees with snow on the ground.

The drive-thru light show, the first of its kind in Virginia when it began in 1993, runs every day from 5:30-10 p.m. beginning on Thanksgiving and ending New Year’s Day.

The cost is $12 per car and $60 for commercial buses. Cash, checks and credit cards will be accepted.

The park will be open rain or shine, but there might be problems if real snow materializes.

“The only time we won’t have it is if the roads are impassable with snow,” said Lunsford, who’s been involved with the event since 1997.

The snow machine isn’t the only big attraction this year, Lunsford said. He noted that with added technology, the displays get better and better each year.

“We’ve got new screens we put up last year that are almost like a television screen,” he said. “We now have LED technology where one bulb can change colors. We went from the old simple animation where Santa’s kind of waving his hand to … Santa landing with his sleigh and walking up and putting presents under a tree.”

Mike Nealer was the assistant director for Newport News Parks, Recreation and Tourism until his retirement in May. He was involved in the light show from the beginning. He can’t believe the growth.

“In the animation we have now, I never would have envisioned,” he said. “In the fall of 1993, when we put that animation up, we thought it was impressive and outstanding. Now, we see things … what’s out there is truly very different.”

Expect the growth to continue.

“We’ve got room,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got 2 miles from start to finish so we have room to grow.”

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