Eaton holiday light display returns as drive-thru only

Coronavirus

EATON, Ohio (WDTN) – To keep some traditions alive this holiday season, several public light displays have reopened to visitors – but with changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Fort St. Clair’s Whispering Christmas, which features a mile-long path decorated with more than two million lights, has returned to Eaton this year as a drive-thru only event.

The display has been a holiday tradition at Fort St. Clair State Park for more than 30 years.

“We’ve missed so much of Christmas things,” said Duncan Carmack, who was first in line to drive through the park Thursday night. “This is one thing we could actually do to remind us of Christmas.”

“It’s in the car,” said Sharon Lunsford, another visitor. “We don’t have to be out in public around anyone.”

Due to the pandemic, the cabins are not open for hot cocoa and cookies this year, and Santa and Mrs. Claus are a safe distance away from families driving by.

“We want to make sure that we’re keeping Santa and Mrs. Claus healthy for their big night,” said Amber Willeford, co-chair for Fort St. Clair’s Whispering Christmas.

The number of cars coming through has held steady so far compared to years past, Willeford said, with a busier opening night last week.

Organizers worked with Eaton city officials to ensure visitors and the volunteers who put up the lights stay safe, Willeford said.

“Most of the work is done outside, so we just made sure everyone stayed their six feet apart and was able to stay wrap the trees and put the displays up,” she said.

Several visitors told 2 NEWS they are grateful to see this tradition remain.

“People need joy and happiness,” Lunsford said. “To get out and still do what they normally do this time of year.”

Fort St. Clair’s Whispering Christmas is open every night from 6 to 9:30 p.m. and runs through December 31, Willeford said. Santa and Mrs. Claus are greeting families each night through December 23 until 8:30 p.m.

A donation of $5 per vehicle is appreciated, Willeford said.

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