Winter Events Team Up

ST. MARYS — The holiday season kicks off in St. Marys on Sunday as two winter events come together.

Winterfest and the Festival of Lights will take place in the area near the shelterhouse on High Street, between the Miami and Erie Canal and the St. Marys River. Winterfest will start at 3 p.m. with a parade through the streets of downtown St. Marys and end with Santa Claus making an appearance. Local musicians also are set to perform in the shelterhouse. Acts will play every 15 minutes from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., with Christmas music during breaks.

“These are all local people who volunteer their time,” said Virgil Bertke, member of the St. Marys Optimist Club.

The Optimist Club, in conjunction with St. Marys Community Partnership, organized the events. Winterfest, Bertke noted, first started in 1994.

“It’s a great way to have kids and adults alike kick off Christmas and have a family activity they can enjoy,” Bertke said. “That’s what Christmas is about.”

In addition to the live entertainment, the Living Hope Assembly of God will be providing a living nativity, which will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Winterfest-goers will have a reason to dust off their ice skates, as the Club will also have a portable ice rink set up in the parking lot. Regular ice skates can be used on the surface, too.

Free hot dogs and hot chocolate will be provided to attendees. Organizers will be gathering donations of either non-perishable food items, new or slightly worn clothing, and new or slightly used children’s toys. Cash donations also will be accepted.

One canned good can be traded for a picture with Santa, which will be provided by Blackbird Photography. Santa’s house, which will be located at High Street Park, will be open from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. After that, Santa will be available for visits from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday until Dec. 22.

The Festival of Lights, which will celebrate its second year this Christmas season, will feature light displays from 23 local businesses. That event will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday until Dec. 22. The Festival of Lights kicks off its schedule from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

“Last year, we had about 20, so we’ve added a few this year” said Jeremy Holtzapple, President of St. Marys Community Partnership.

One of the goals of the Festival of Lights, Holtzapple said, is to bring people to St. Marys.

“Last year, we had approximately 500 cars come through,” he said, noting visitors came from Findlay and Lima.

Holtzapple also said he hopes to collect as many charitable items as possible for Agape with the festival, and that the event helps to support local businesses.