DAMASCUS - The Damascus community is coming together to host its first Christmas light up celebration this weekend.
"Light Up Damascus" is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the north parking lot of the Damascus Friends Church, 28857 Walnut St. Events will be held throughout the Damascus area all day.
Coordinated by longtime resident Roger Smith, the event is aimed at bringing the community together as a whole for a fun time.
"I wanted people to be able to enjoy the start of the season without worrying about the rush," he said.
A self described avid light decorator, Smith said he first started with the idea about 18 months ago after the death of his handicapped child, who loved the light displays.
"I light up the house a lot, I put up a lot of lights," he said. "We all enjoyed it so much."
Armed with a desire to share his love with his community, Smith said he first took the idea to his Ruritan club. Soon other organizations joined in, though.
"It didn't take long to catch on," he said. "It's been a great response. Just about everybody in town is involved."
The event will feature three trees at the Damascus Friends Church. Each will be lit following messages from Pastor John Ryser of Damascus Friends and Pastor Mick Foster of Damascus United Methodist. The lighting ceremony will also include a family candle procession, horse-drawn carriage rides for distinguished citizens and performances by West Branch High School's Select Band Members and the Community Choir. A performance by West Branch's Young and Alive show choir will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the sanctuary.
Community members may donate $5 in memory or honor of their loved one and support the all-white memory tree. Donations with a loved one's information may be made out to Light Up Damascus, P.O. Box 94, Damascus Ohio 44619. Donations will be accepted at the Damascus churches, Damascus True Value Hardware Store or the post office. Donations must be received by 10 a.m. Friday.
Prior to the lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m., several free events will be offered, including:
-Damascus True Value Hardware Store, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., special sales and refreshments
-Briar Patch, 28021 state Route 62, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., open house
-Remember When, 15274 state Route 62, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Christmas Tea
-Pearce House Museum, noon to 5 p.m., open house and United Quilters Guild display
-Damascus United Methodist Church, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., arts and crafts; noon to 3 p.m., luncheon, noon to 4 p.m., Make & Take craft for all ages
-Community Center Park, 1 to 3 p.m., open house and children's craft
-Firestone Healthcare, 3 to 5 p.m., adult blood pressure checks and children's activities
-G's Pizza, 3 to 10 p.m., pizza by the slice
-Damascus Friends Church, 3 to 4 p.m., donkey rides with Oscar, north parking lot; 3 to 5 p.m., children's activities and "decoration" of children by Stephanie's Hair & Nail Salon, atrium and gym; 3 to 6:30 p.m., Damascus Garden Club exhibition, library; live nativity, 5 p.m., north parking lot.
There will also be a canned food drive from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Damascus Friends north parking lot where the first 300 children will receive a ticket entered into a drawing for a 6-foot-tall stocking.
Community members will also be able to vote for favorite artwork with loose change at Farmers National Bank beginning Monday and at Damascus Friends on Saturday. The three winning artists will each receive $25 cash.
Parking will be available at Damascus Friends Church. Transportation will be provided to participating locations.
For information visit Light Up Damascus on Facebook or contact Jan Baswell at Pleasant View North Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, 330-537-4621.
Several local organizations have made generous donations to the event including Damascus Ruritan Club, Damascus Garden Club, Pleasant View North Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, Pearce House, Damascus Community Park, United Methodist Church, Damascus Friends Church, Farmers Bank, West Branch Local Schools, Damascus Elementary, Damascus Elementary PIE, Knox Elementary, Quaker Canyon, Cope Farm Equipment and many individual volunteers.
Smith noted that the event is not just for the West Branch community and encouraged residents of surrounding communities to attend, as well.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org