By Luke Britt
There are very few good things that came out of the Covid pandemic, but Union Parish’s annual Christmas in the State Park, which begins Saturday night, is certainly one of them.
Only its third year, the Union Parish Chamber of Commerce’s festival of lights at Lake D’Arbonne State Park has become one of the parish’s largest events, drawing more than 9,000 visitors last year. Organizers said they’re expecting that number to increase by, at least, a few thousand this year.
“Three years ago, when we were in the middle of the pandemic and folks were still isolating themselves, an event that allowed people to get out of the house and enjoy a little Christmas cheer from the safety of their cars seemed like a good idea. Turns out it was a great idea,” Chamber President Job McKinnie said.
That first year the festival was simply a driving tour through several lighted displays created by churches and other community groups. Last year, the event was expanded to include food and crafts vendors, as well as a few more lighted displays. This year, McKinnie said, the festival includes more displays, more vendors and more entertainment.
“The community support has been incredible,” he said. “More churches are involved than ever before and more community groups. We have twice as many sponsors as we did last year and three times as many as we did the first year.”
Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include:
• A stage has been placed in the park’s Pavilion One where church choirs and the Union Parish High School band will perform. Substantial seating has been arranged in an around the pavilion to allow people to relax during those performances. The Dance Academy of Union Parish and the parish theater troupe will perform, as well.
• A children’s walking path with displays created especially for young children will be on display.
• Church displays have been set up in an area set aside specifically for them so visitors who wish to can enjoy a “true meaning of Christmas” experience.
• Improved traffic control will be possible because the Farmerville Lions Club has volunteered to assist the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office with guiding vehicles through the park. The VFW is also providing volunteers to serve as courtesy patrols whose sole purpose, McKinnie said, is to help people find their way around the 3-mile festival area.
• Improved lighting throughout the area is possible this year because the state installed in-ground power outlets that will allow lights to be placed in areas that in previous years were rather gloomy.
Christmas in the State Park begins Saturday
By Luke Britt