By Matt Reese
There is definitely something special about Christmas on a farm, but Ohio’s small towns and cities know how to spread a little holiday cheer as well. Here are some fun (and quirky) Christmas happenings in small towns around Ohio worth celebrating.
This Scioto County seat has had its share of struggles in recent years, but efforts are underway to turn the city around in a positive direction. Those efforts include spreading some Christmas cheer in 2018 with a month-long Winterfest. The Market Square in the city’s Boneyfiddle District has been transformed into a winter wonderland with outdoor ice skating, thousands of lights, and a modern take on an old-fashioned, downtown Christmas. On Dec. 15, Portsmouth is looking to break the world record for the most people simultaneously caroling. The current record is 1,822 held by Waukesha, Wis. The folks in Portsmouth are looking for 2,000 carolers at 7 p.m. on the 15th. All are welcome and it is free to participate.
The holiday festivities are part of a broader effort to revitalize Portsmouth, said Matthew Seifert, president of Friends of Portsmouth.
“We did a river cleanup after the floodwaters receded in the spring. That led to some momentum to do some other small projects including a movie night for families downtown in Portsmouth and then Plant Portsmouth. We ended up setting a world record for most people simultaneously potting plants. We had 1,405 people come out and we also did a massive cleanup of downtown,” he said. “For Winterfest, we were able to rent an artificial skating rink that simulates the ice skating experience. We built a larger event around that to create a destination for downtown during the Christmas period. Winterfest officially started on Dec. 2. The weather was perfect. It was sunny and 65. We had a couple thousand people come through and the ice rink was never without a line. We have a vendor village, carriage rides, Santa’s workshop where kids can tell Santa what they want for Christmas, and people exit through the Friends of Portsmouth gift shop which has different holiday themed items, many made by local artisans. We have a live nativity scene and multiple events happening through the month.”
The efforts have given the city some hope this holiday season.
“We have seen so many people excited to participate. One thing that has been necessary to repair in this community, I think, is the morale. For a long time, from economic depression, to the drug epidemics and everything else, the community has really felt beaten down. They are looking for things to feel proud of and we are seeing a lot more of that lately,” Seifert said. “People are excited and talking about Portsmouth and Scioto County in ways they haven’t for a long time.”
On Dec. 1, the Ansonia Community Pride organization hosted its inaugural Lighted Tractor Parade to showcase Darke County’s agriculture.
“The community loved it!” said Erin Horst, who helped coordinate the event. “Many farmers are already talking about what they want to do for next year. We really lucked out that the rain cleared and the parade went off without inclement weather. If we can just have a normal fall and get harvest over early next year, that might help with participation.”
The parade included 36 tractor, RTV and golf cart entries, with the majority being tractors. The entry fee for the parade was a donation to the Ansonia Food Pantry and it raised over $800, Horst said. Businesses stayed open late for the parade to cap off the day of events that started with a pancake breakfast and included a visit from Santa.
Ansonia Community Pride organized the event that builds on other recent community activities including hanging banners honoring local veterans, paintings in town, and numerous community events. Plans are already being made for the 2nd Ansonia Lighted Tractor Parade on Dec. 7, 2019.
While the tiny village of Clifton is fairly understated most of the year, it sets the heavens aglow during the holidays thanks to the legendary Christmas light display at Clifton Mill. The Satariano family that owns the mill is once again dazzling thousands of visitors with an incredible 4 million-light display. The display was recently featured on the ABC TV Show The Great Christmas Light Fight “Heavyweights” episode that includes the nation’s top holiday light displays. Clifton Mill won the top prize of $50,000 for the best display. The episode aired in early December.
The tradition of the Christmas lights stems from the Satariano family tradition of decorating their family home each year while current owner Anthony Satariano was growing up. After buying the mill, it only seemed natural to continue the tradition on a bigger scale.
“We bought 100,000 lights thinking that would be enough. We learned a lot. People would pull in and say, ‘Wow this is really neat.’ We just did more of it after that to share with people,” Satariano said. “We can get several thousand visitors on a good night.”
The Clifton Mill is also in the running to win Best Public Holiday Lights Display for USA Today. You can see the contenders and vote for Clifton Mill at 10best.com/awards/travel/best-public-holiday-lights-display/. The national winners will be announced Dec. 21.