Well, we’re saying goodbye to another year tonight and I don’t think there are many of us who are saddened by its demise. I’m sure there is hardly a family that hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus in one way or another. For most of us, it resulted in observing Christmas in a different way. But there was, still, really only one way in which the last of the Moeller clan — at least this branch of it — has celebrated it in recent years.
Since my daughter, Lisa, resides in Georgia, only my son, Matthew, his wife, Lanita and I made it a point to have an authentic Chinese dinner at a restaurant in Olympia, but they ceased staying open on the holiday. Last year we had a wonderful meal at the Great India Cuisine restaurant on North Tower Avenue in Centralia and had been looking forward to doing it again. But, like everyone else, we had to settle for “take out” this year. However, the food was just as delicious and left enough surplus for me to finish the remainder. After dinner we decided to ride around, looking at the displays of lights and, on the spur of the moment, to take in the Christmas display in Borst Park. The display of lighted scenes beat anything else I remember seeing in this town and made me realize that it’s been too many years since I had driven through it.
Back then the price of entry into the display used to be a couple of cans of food. It’s now $5 per car, but that amount is returned to the community in many ways, including Little League activities, restoration of the old blockhouse and purchase of more lighted displays, etc. All expenses and income are kept within the Borst Park construction fund. This year there were over 200 lighted displays, each one consisting of colored LED lights and about half of them with moving displays. My first reaction was “Man! What a lot of extension cords to set up and plug in!” The displays are all purchased from the same company, “Christmas Done Bright,” to ensure that everything is compatible and, yes, additions in the power supply have been installed to handle the extra load.
The idea had its inception in a business class at Centralia College led by Lee Coumbs and was adopted by the Centralia City Council in 2011. At first there was dissension by some members of the public who didn’t feel they should have to pay to drive through a park that their taxes supported, but that opinion has changed as more displays were created. The commercial part of the plan (those posters along side of the road) still exists and there’s now a waiting list, as the number of signs is limited to 75. The sign itself costs the displaying entity $200 and there’s a fee of $25 per year to display it. And this year it was seen by people in 12,175 cars — and an estimated 40,000 people, twice what saw it last year! That’s more than the entire population of Centralia and Chehalis, combined! At least half of the cars also had dogs and they weren’t even counted!
As we drove through last Friday, I couldn’t help but think of the labor involved in setting up the display, all of the scenes, and learned that, while the City Parks Department may be the most obvious, much labor is provided by local groups such as the Centralia College baseball team, the Lewis County Drug Court and the Centralia High School athletic department, as well as many other local individuals. There are hopes of expanding next year and I can’t wait to see what it will look like then!
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at email@example.com.