Festival of Lights features food, shopping and more – Times News Online

For the past three weeks, the West End Festival of Lights has drawn crowds of people to the Gilbert Fairgrounds.

“We have a great turnout. The weekends had a better crowd size than during the week, ”said Todd Merkel, creator of the event, on Sunday.

Doors open at 2 p.m. on weekends and 5 p.m. on weeknights.

Every seven days there are a handful of food vendors next to each other and near several hostels and rest areas.

“I’ve been here morning, noon and night since Black Friday,” said Jeff Tresslar, who runs Teddy’s Kitchen.

His stand offers soups, grilled cheese – which can be made with tomato, bacon or ham – pulled pork, hamburger beans, cookies and hot chocolate.

Teddy is the nickname given to him by his workers. He used to have the Market Café at the Mahoning Valley Farmers Market.

The other food vendors offer burgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fried Oreos, cotton candy, funnel cake, caramel apples, popcorn, drinks, and hot chocolate.

For years, Merkel has created an elaborate display of Christmas lights known as the Stoney Ridge Lights at her home on Mauch Chunk Road in Palmerton.

He wanted a bigger place and he wanted more decorations to display. He brought his love of lights to the West End.

It includes over 100,000 lights and nine mega-trees sequenced to music.

“I like the lights and the fact that you can walk around the exhibition grounds. In some places it’s just a drive-thru option, ”said Rebecca Robtoy, one of a dozen vendors who have a table inside the large heated tent.

She sells LuLaRoe leggings and fashion accessories, as well as pop-it fidget toys and reversible plush octopus toys.

Her booth is next to Angelika DeFrancesco, owner of Country Pleasures.

“I sell homemade jams, marmalades, applesauce, tomato sauces and wing sauces fresh off the farm,” DeFrancesco said. “I use family recipes.

She does everything from her home cooking to Andreas. She takes care of the fruit part of the farm, which does not use pesticides.

“I had a good year of growing except for the grapes because of the lantern fly,” she said.

Camp Papillon, an animal shelter in Snydersville, has a table with shirts for sale and information about its fundraisers throughout the year.

“We welcome and save animals. The organization is headed by Gerry Papillon and is named after her mother, Patsy Ann Papillon, ”said volunteer Linda Dillon.

Malissa Kuzma has Paparazzi jewelry for sale at her table.

“Sales have been good so far,” she said. “I have jewelry for women and girls.”

The Lazy Flamingo store offers women’s clothing and accessories, signs, a mix of wines and scarves.

Other vendors carry political items, dog treats, candles, decorations, pickles, and toys.

In the other heated tent is a bounce house, where children can bounce for a few minutes. The cost is $ 2 per child.

In addition to strolling through the fairgrounds, customers can take the miniature train for $ 2 per person. Tickets are available at the table next to the bounce house.

“I had a long line on Friday (December 10), we were excited. As one group was unloading, the next group was going up, ”said conductor Ricky Cilbrith.

The train is owned by its boss, Dean Gumbert, and Cilbrith has been the one doing the rides since the festival opened on November 26.

Garlands of multicolored lights surround the perimeter of the aisles. Behind them are various scenes, including the manger with Mary and Joseph and the animals; the Grinch, his dog Max and Cindy Lou Who; cows in front of corn stalks which light up and seem to dance; a large blue lake of lights on the grass with fishermen holding rods and a fish hanging from a line; a lighted tunnel to cross; gingerbread men and gingerbread house; penguins, igloo and polar bears; and Santa Claus and his reindeer.

The festival had to close on Saturday due to bad weather and high winds.

“I am dealing with the damage caused by the wind last night. I had a few hours of work to do after the storm, ”said Merkel, referring to parts of her screen that had been knocked over or otherwise damaged.

Bob Silliman, coordinator of the Carbon County Fair’s Kris Kringle Fest, said the two large tents were loose and needed to be secured on Sunday.

“Apart from the wind, everything went well. The lights are amazing. Merkel and her committee have done a great job, ”said Silliman.

Kris Kringle Fest was in conjunction with the Festival of Lights over the past two weekends.

Jameson Hockenbury, 2 and a half, was very excited and had to stop twice to visit Kris Kringle and have a photo taken, his mother Davey Hockenbury said.

“The interaction with the kids has been good, but not the same because of COVID,” said Nick Hawkey, who plays Kris Kringle.

Hawkey has volunteered for 51 years as Santa Claus / Kris Kringle and donates all of the money he receives for the concert to charities such as the Salvation Army and the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network.

His chair is behind a sheet of plastic on three sides. Out front there are baskets with coloring books, crayons and candy canes to take with each child.

A parent initially appeared upset by the plastic sheeting, but Hawkey explained the reasoning: “If a child with COVID-19 sits on my lap, I could potentially pass it on to 1,000 other children and bring the virus at home with my wife. As soon as I explained it, the parent understood and apologized.

Kris Kringle and the craft vendors will be back at the Festival of Lights this weekend, just in time for Christmas.

“There will be no musical entertainment, but horse and buggy rides will be back. They are very popular, ”said Merkel.

The Festival of Lights will run until December 23 and will be closed on December 24 and 25.

“We will reopen on December 26 for a few days, probably until December 30, depending on the weather,” he said.

Angelika DeFrancesco, owner of Country Pleasures in Andreas, greets guests. She makes and sells homemade jams, marmalades, applesauce, tomato sauces and wing sauces. She also makes decorations. STACI L. GOWER / SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Rebecca Robtoy sells LuLaRoe leggings and accessories, pop-it fidget toys and reversible plush octopus toys at her booth.

A Nativity Display is one of the many illuminated displays lining the driveway of the West End Fairgrounds.