Thousands of people are expected to travel to Prestonsburg over the holiday season for the annual Archer Park Christmas lights display and all of the activities offered alongside the display — a carnival, sleigh rides and visits with Santa Claus and other Christmas characters.

Prestonsburg Parks Director Ritchie Schoolcraft reported that the display includes one million Christmas lights in various holiday-themed scenes and exhibits.

Prestonsburg Parks workers have been working since September to create the Christmas get-away at Archer Park. Schoolcraft said 45,000 vehicles traveled through the park in 2017 and, with passengers included, he estimated visitors to total more than 100,000 people. Last year, a Nov. 21 flood prompted the early closure of the park, but Schoolcraft said more than 40,000 vehicles had already visited the park.

The light display opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and it will continue through New Year’s Eve.

“We’ve added to the show and we’ve moved things around ... We try to always keep it different, but still spectacular,” Schoolcraft said. “We really enjoy it. It’s just the amount of lights, and everywhere you turn, we’ve got some kind of display built.”

He said most of the displays and exhibits at the park are handcrafted by parks workers.

“The guys built them. They built the displays, so it has a personal touch to it ... I let these guys design some of these displays. They do the work, but I let them design what they build, and they’re pretty intelligent. They come up with some good stuff,” he said.

Casey’s Rides returned this week and opened the carnival on Tuesday. The carnival features three rides this year as well as vendors selling funnel cakes, cotton candy and other “sweet treats.”

The carnival will be open Monday through Friday, starting at 5 p.m., and Schoolcraft said the City of Prestonsburg is sponsoring free carnival rides from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Monday in December.

Santa Claus will visit the park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Saturday, except Dec. 7, when he will take part in the Prestonsburg Christmas Parade, and Schoolcraft said Santa may also stop by for unannounced visits to the park throughout the month. The park will offer sleigh rides on Fridays and Saturdays from “6 p.m. until the crowd leaves.” Visitors can also expect to see other Christmas characters, like Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch and Rudolph.

Schoolcraft said park workers try to add something new to the light display every year. The list of new exhibits this year includes a shelter where visitors can take photos and the decoration of a large cedar tree that officials have “wanted to decorate for years,” he said.

This year, workers used the Prestonsburg Fire Department’s tower truck to decorate the tree.

Once again, the park will be collecting donations for the Floyd County Animal Shelter and St. James Episcopal Church’s Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry. Visitors can drop off items for the animal shelter at the Archer Park shelter located near the veteran’s memorial and the dog park. Visitors can drop off items for the food pantry near the walking bridge and playground at Archer Park.

In that location, near the tennis courts, the park is also providing its annual honorary displays for community members. Visitors may hang ornaments in memory of or in honor of their loved ones who have cancer, who are veterans or who are fire fighters, police officers or coal miners.

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