Franklin, the business community and residents are joining together to make sure the city is merry and bright on its “most beautiful night” despite a change in the downtown decorations.
Earlier this year Franklin started sidewalk and lighting updates along Liberty Street between 12th and 14th streets. The poles for the streetlights included in the project could not be completely replaced this year due to supply difficulties.
“This is quite a unique year as far as decorating goes. Our light poles, which were supposed to arrive in August, will not arrive until November 18,” said Ronnie Beith, Franklin events and marketing coordinator.
That means no stringing the holiday lights for the city’s annual Light Up Night. The holiday event, which sponsor Franklin Fine Arts Council called “Franklin’s most beautiful night,” will be held Saturday, November 19.
Knowing how much residents and visitors enjoy the festive feel of the downtown when the lights are up, Beith and her crew of friends and city volunteers developed a plan to keep the season bright. “We have challenged the town to help us light up Liberty in any way they can. We are challenging the businesses, our volunteer ‘Santa Helpers,’ our parade entries, etc. It is a community effort,” she said.
And they are putting their money where their mouth is. This year’s top Light Up Night parade prize will be $300 for the entry with the most lights. Other traditional parade categories will offer $200 and $125 awards.
Likewise, they have upped the ante for the downtown business window decorating contest. The annual competition to deck the halls is sponsored by FFAC and Galaxy Federal Credit Union. This year, Franklin councilperson Todd Zahner, owner of the County Grub, added an extra prize for the business that uses the most lights.
The lights traditionally strung along Liberty Street have been repurposed in Fountain Park for 2022.
“We did a lot with lights this year,” said Pat Dolecki, who serves as one of the city’s decorating chairs. Dan Weiland is the other.
“We have 10 trees that were wrapped with lights that normally would be on the streets,” Dolecki said. She led an effort to clean and, as needed, replace bulbs in the city’s inventory of thousands of lights. Those included the lights up around the trees near the memorial in Fountain Park.
“(We) used up all my supplies. I had to order more,” Dolecki said.
Nearly 2,000 of the lights will be going on the city’s biggest tree, which will once again be in front of the Venango County Courthouse. A new, more secure anchor system was installed earlier this year to ensure the tree remains in place.
The 2022 tree will be coming from the front yard of Greg Gonzales of Oil City. He donated it in memory of his late wife, Kathy. “She was really special, always caring for people. She worked at CareerLink and then when she couldn’t anymore because of the cancer, she worked at St. Elizabeth’s Center as a family advocate. She’d want me to do this,” Gonzales said through a press release from the city.
Gonzales was approached by volunteers from the city, who asked if he would be willing to give up the tree that he and a neighbor had trimmed and maintained over the years. He said it was a family decision to do so, and that many of his kids and grandkids will attend the lighting ceremony.
“We are so thankful to the Gonzales family for the gift of Franklin’s Christmas tree,” Amanda Power, community development director, wrote in a release. “This is a really special holiday tradition for the community, but it’s made even more beautiful knowing that we are honoring Kathy’s legacy of kindness and generosity.”
The tree will be lit immediately following the Light Up Night Electric Light Parade, which will start at 6 p.m. and will feature the theme “Feel the Love of Christmas.” And immediately after the tree is lit, Fountain Park will glow with the annual ground fireworks show.
“Pyrotechnico is getting ready to put on another spectacular fireworks display – with new effects to the sounds of Christmas music,” Beith said. “The crew never ceases to amaze us.”
“My dream for Franklin was a beautiful and early kick-off for the holiday season and spirit in Franklin. Light Up Night with its beauty and grandeur is my favorite event,” she said. “Overall, I love the giving, friendly spirit of Christmas.”
Here's whats happening in connection with Light Up Night
While the evening electric parade and fireworks are the hallmarks of the event, the entire downtown and beyond will be filled with activity throughout the day. The following is a schedule of the day’s activities:
Additional holiday events
Light Up Night is only the start of the holiday happenings in Franklin.
The city is sponsoring a Christmas Walk in the Park again this year. Businesses and organizations are invited to decorate one of the 20 trees that will be placed around Fountain Park. The trees will go up on November 20 and should be decorated by the following weekend. Those trees and the 10 decorated by the FFAC will be turned on once the city installs the electrical boxes. For additional details and to reserve a tree, contact Franklin community development director Amanda Power at email@example.com.
On Friday, December 2, Santa will be coming back to town. That evening day, the jolly fellow will hitch a ride on the fire engine and make his way through the city’s neighborhoods. He is slated to leave the Franklin Fire Department at 6 p.m. A map of his intended path will be posted on the city’s Facebook page.
The Franklin Retail Association will be holding its Old Fashioned Christmas for Kids from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on December 3. There will be a scavenger hunt, crafts, games, face painting, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. The events will be held throughout the downtown business district.
Also, that weekend, the original holiday production “A Barrow Christmas Card,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. December 3 and 2 p.m. December 4 at the Barrow-Civic Theatre. The theatre’s Christmas Tree Extravaganza will be available for viewing whenever the lobby is open.
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