The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from ... Canton: Up in lights

  • The annual holiday light display at Canton Stadium Park draws a stream of cars, vans, trucks, and sports utility vehicles that nightly pass through the acres of animated illumination.

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  • Christmas lights up, blinks, jumps, and shoots across the sky in Canton’s Stadium Park.
    Still, as interesting as the annual holiday light display appears to those in the stream of cars, vans, trucks and sports utility vehicles that nightly pass through the acres of animated illumination, those onlookers themselves are almost as fascinating to watch.
    “HAPPY HOLIDAYS From Canton City Park System,” is the greeting visitors get when they turn into Stadium Park from 12th Street NW. Its flashes beside a dinosaur wearing a Santa hat and carrying a gift pack.
    Oh, some motorists drive quickly past the lights, as though they are using the park road merely to get to their destinations. Or maybe they are driving through for a quick look — it’s their nightly drive-by — to get a booster shot of Christmas spirit.
    Others slow to study the ringing bell, the elves standing beside a tree, or Santa’s motorcycle, which pulls a cart filled with toys.
    One car stops as a cannon fires a candy cane over the road into a sack on the other side. It’s a prominent display, although across the creek the cannon that fires a ball of lights a few dozen feet to where it explodes in sparks is just as spectacular.
    A pedestrian in the park at the moment of the silent imaginary explosion would hear a real goose fly overhead. It’s a Christmas goose. Nature has provided a Charles Dickens sort of holiday enhancement.
    The cars continue to file past elves throwing snowballs over an igloo. Some turn left at a giant nutcracker, into Canton Garden Center. The grounds are awash in lights, beginning with the candy canes that line the driveway.
    Some visitors park their cars in the Garden Center lot to inspect the multitude of displays that have been erected there.
    “Season’s Greetings” tops the Garden Center’s roof, with a green and red Grinch in the middle of the words. Lighted wreaths blink in the Garden Center’s windows.
    Trees are lighted in blue and red. Horses of lights circle on a carousel. Elves unload gifts from a sleigh. Snowflakes flicker in a wooded area of the Garden Center’s landscaping.
    A multicolored train, with lighted circles of smoke streaming back over it to simulate movement, travels north at the front edge of the Garden Center property. So cars turn left out of the center’s driveway and head that direction, as well.
    Driving more slowly now, because the displays become numerous, they pass the “Peace on Earth” wish that is flanked by two candles. They watch the illuminated skater who jumps barrels. They see the outline of animals grazing and then accept the holiday “Season’s Greetings” that is put into lights nearby.
    Page 2 of 2 - A modernistic-looking nativity scene comes next, and then an unseasonable set of hula dancers. In the lagoon is a sea serpent — a fun display and a personal favorite— that could be nicknamed the Park Ness monster.
    Not much has changed about the lights since last year. From year to year, not much usually changes in the annual holiday display, notes a park official. “We have a rotation, but we only change a couple.”
    Nor does much really need to change, it appears, from the number of cars that pass through the park to view the lights every night. Traditions are not supposed to change. They exist — the lights are there — to be enjoyed.
    Passersby no doubt smile as the exhibit ends with a ski-jumping Santa and a waving snowman, and the pace of cars picks up to traffic speed.

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