The Christmas season is right around the corner, and that means the return of one of Titusville’s most cherished holiday traditions.
The Holiday at Burgess drive-through light display will have its opening day of the season on Friday, and will illuminate the city on a nightly basis until New Years Eve. Put together by Take Pride in Titusville, a community organization, the drive-through is an entirely volunteer effort.
Heading into its 17th year, the number of light fixtures at Holiday at Burgess has grown and grown.
“We have dozens and dozens of displays,” Take Pride organizer Joe Carter said. “I’ve never even counted them to be honest with you.”
In addition to the lights at Burgess Park, Take Pride in Titusville also sets up many other displays throughout the city, including those in Scheide Park, a display on Water Street near Titusville Middle School and the fixtures hanging off various poles in Titusville.
All of this takes a large amount of effort and a lot of people. Carter said that he estimates between 30 to 40 people helped put up the light displays this year, with work beginning around five weeks ago, near the end of October.
Despite getting an extra week more than usual, thanks to Thanksgiving falling on the last week of November instead of the second to last, it still is a difficult task.
“It’s a lot of work, especially when it’s all volunteer and you’re doing it in your spare time after work,” Carter said.
Luckily, Take Pride in Titusville has been able to count on a number of helpers to assist with holding the event. Carter said that many local students from the middle school and high school have leant their time, a big help when it comes to the heavier displays.
Further, various clubs and organizations from around the Titusville area will operate the drive-through each night. Participating groups include the Titusville Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club and the Titusville Area Hospital Auxiliary.
With all of the additional help, Carter believes that more than 200 people are involved in putting up the displays, all without costing the citizens of Titusville a single cent.
The crown jewel of Take Pride in Titusville’s effort is the drive-through at Burgess Park. Visitors are transported to a winter wonderland as they navigate their cars through the park, gazing at dozens of intricate light setups.
A new addition to this year’s iteration of Holiday at Burgess is a miniaturized historic Titusville located near the entrance of the drive-through. The display features oil derricks, including a nearly exact to-scale wire frame replica of the original Drake Well, and a small train representing the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad.
A litany of special events are planned for most Saturdays in December to accompany the drive as well. For Dec. 7, a dog sled team will pay a visit to Burgess Park, giving kids a chance to pet the animals and speak to their driver about the racing sport.
On Dec. 14, an ice carver create works of frozen art, while Dec. 21 will have some reindeer visit, likely to take a short break before they have to help Santa fly across the Earth. Santa Claus himself will visit every Friday and Saturday in December, ready to take pictures with kids and hear their Christmas wishes. Carter said that more information about these special events will be announced as the time of their occurrence draws near.
These features and more have helped make Holiday at Burgess a big success. Carter said the event draws more than 10,000 people to take a drive-through the park each year. Many of these people are coming from outside of the Titusville area, and Carter said drivers from as far as Pittsburgh come to the city to see the display.
While the event may draw large numbers, Carter said he most enjoys the more humble aspects of Holiday at Burgess. Many people over the years have approached him, thanking him and the other members of Take Pride in Titusville for putting up the displays and telling them that the drive-through is an annual family tradition.
“It’s that smile and ‘thank you’ that makes it all worthwhile, you know?” Carter said.
Holiday at Burgess begins Friday and will continue nightly until Dec. 31. The event will run from 6-9 p.m. every night. The event is free, though donations are accepted to support Take Pride in Titusville.
Ray can be reached, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.