By Kevin Limiti
The Christmas season is officially here, which means holiday music, gathering with family, opening gifts, and waiting for Santa Claus.
But there is nothing that screams holiday spirit more than what the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism/Addictions Foundation (LEAF) is doing to draw attention to the great light displays local residents proudly show off in Otsego County.
And it’s all for a good cause: LEAF created the ‘Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail” three years ago as a safe way to promote sober driving.
“We kept seeing people ask‘where are the great light displays?’” said Julie Dostal, executive director of LEAF, told The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta. “We saw there was no central light display resource.”
She said December is “3-D Awareness Month,” which stands for Drunk/Drugged/Drowsy driving.
Otsego County residents who have decorated their homes submit their addresses to LEAF so people can hop around in their cars to different addresses, perhaps with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, and admire the festive decorations.
“We thought this would be a good match for us to have people driving around,” Ms. Dostal said. “So many people on the roads are going to see family. We’re putting some prevention information out there.”
Ms. Dostal called the messaging behind sober driving during the holidays “somewhat jarring.”
“You don’t want to ever think about that, especially not over the holidays,” she said. “We thought, ‘What if we put a positive spin on it?’”
A Google Maps database marks participating houses throughout Otsego County — in Cooperstown, Oneonta, Richfield Springs, Unadilla, and more. Find the trail at facebook.com/greatotsegolighttrail.
If the Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail is not enough to satisfy the itch for holiday light displays, the second annual Festival of Lights in Oneonta begins Thursday, December 16, and runs all the way through Saturday, January 1, at Neahwa Park. The festival features light displays throughout the park from community groups and organizations.
“First Night Oneonta and Five Star Subaru present the drive-through Oneonta Festival of Lights, and we have some great things planned for the community,” Carol Mandigo, chair, First Night Oneonta said.
“On Saturday, December 18, from 5 pm to 8 pm, we will have a special pedestrian area with Santa Claus and live entertainment by Cosmic Karma Fire, Mike the Juggler, DrumQuest, and the Hill City Ice Queen and Friends,” Ms. Mandigo said. “We want the community to come out and enjoy.”
Similar to LEAF, all First Night events are alcohol-free, family-friendly, and free of charge.
“We’re able to offer this as a free event because of our wonderful community sponsors,” she said.
Visit firstnightoneonta.com for more information on the Festival of Lights; for more on the light trail head to Facebook or contact LEAF at leafinc.org.
The Otsego County Fair also presents another weekend for its third annual ‘Drive Thru Holiday of Lights’ from 6 – 9 p.m. December 17 and 18 at the Morris fairgrounds. Admission is $10 per carload.