Woodward, Okla. —
Crystal Beach Park will soon be once again illuminated by over 2 million colorful lights.
The opening night ceremony for the 18th Annual Crystal Christmas lighting display is this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Crystal Beach Band Shell.
"We welcome everybody to come on out," said William Monday, chair of 2013 Crystal Christmas committee. "It's always an eventful night, a fun night and very family oriented. And this year with the band, Jennica and Santa, what better way to get the family excited and in the Christmas spirit?"
The festivities will begin with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will be escorted into the park by the Woodward Police Department, Monday said.
Then there will be some musical entertainment, including performances by the new 50-piece Woodward Area Community Band, he said.
"And Jennica Kenny will be there to sing and dance with the kids on stage as she normally does each year," Monday said.
When it comes time for the big finish, there will be a countdown until the big switch is flipped and all 2 million Christmas lights are turned on all at once. Simultaneously the traditional fireworks display will shoot off as the community band plays another Christmas tune.
"The fireworks show is always spectacular and I think it will be without fail again this year," Monday said.
Altogether, he said, "the opening night ceremony lasts about an hour."
Then the public has until 10 p.m. to drive through the park looking over all the different light displays or to just enjoy the other Crystal Christmas activities, he said.
These other activities include riding on the Kiwanis Train, visiting Santa's House, or browsing through the gift shop, he said.
This year Santa's House will be located on the northeast side of the Aquatics Center, near the train station, and the gift shop will be located just past the exit booth right off Lakeview Dr.
"The gift shop has some really neat gift ideas and Christmas decor and ornaments. Our gift shop ladies do a great job of stocking it with some great items," Monday said.
Other highlights of this year's Crystal Christmas opening night celebration include a concession stand operated by the Woodward FFA and prize drawings for Chamber Checks, which "can be used just like cash" at any participating Chamber member business, Monday said.
All adult visitors to the opening night celebration will receive a raffle ticket to be eligible for the Chamber Checks drawing, he said.
Monday said that a couple of things that the public will need to keep in mind for Saturday's opening night festivities will be the weather and parking.
"I think the weather will be nice and frosty," he said, reminding people to be sure to bundle up because "it's going to be chilly that day with temps in the 40s."
As for the parking, he said that the parking lots in the central park area will not be available. However, there will still be plenty of parking available in other sections of Crystal Beach Park.
"Parking will be by the fairgrounds buildings and on the west side of the arena and we will have golf carts helping to shuttle people from the parking area to where the opening night events will be held at the band shell," Monday said.
In addition, he said, "I believe all the parking by the baseball parks will be available also."
After Saturday's grand opening celebration, Crystal Christmas will be open nightly from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 31. The gift shop will also be open nightly, offering free popcorn to all Crystal Christmas visitors.
"Then Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays is when Santa will be there and the train will be running," Monday said. "There will also be hay rides on Friday and Saturday nights."
There is a "minimal fee" to ride the train, but the hay rides are by donation only, he said.
Donations are also accepted at the exit gate from those who drive through Crystal Christmas.
"Those donations are what fund this project year to year. So if you enjoy it, then please donate; that'd be great," Monday said, noting "proceeds go to maintain the lights and to add new displays. It all goes to improvements or making the event larger."
Besides the donations, Monday said that Crystal Christmas would not be possible without the support of the City of Woodward, the Woodward Chamber of Commerce, and William S. Key Correctional Center, which provides inmates who help build and set up the various light displays throughout the park.
"William Key is always a good supporter of Crystal Christmas. We supply around 8 to 10 offenders to do the project day in and day out," said Monday, who is also warden of the minimum security prison in Fort Supply.
He said the offenders not only spend weeks helping to put up the lights before the event, but also work for weeks afterward taking it all back down and putting it back in storage for another 10 months or so until time for the next Crystal Christmas.
The annual light show would also not be possible if not for the "great support" it receives from the community, Monday said. Especially from those community members who generously volunteer to work at the show each night.
"We have volunteers man the entrance and exit booths along with the gift shop. It's a great community service deal," he said.
He said a number of student groups and other community groups usually come out and help each year, but more volunteers are always welcomed.
"If someone wants to volunteer and help man one of the areas, they can call the Chamber and ask for Karla or Cynthia and get put on the volunteer list," Monday said.
To learn more about volunteering for Crystal Christmas or to sign-up to work a specific evening, call the Woodward Chamber of Commerce at 256-7411.