It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds where about 1,200 people toured the 12th annual Festival of Lights during opening weekend.

The festivities began with the lighted parade at 6 p.m. Despite the snow on the ground and the freezing temperatures, dedicated parade fans began arriving on Main Street at 5 p.m., although many stayed in heated vehicles until just before the parade.

“We come every year and it’s nice to see so many people out here in the cold,” said Penny Self, who braved the cold alongside her husband, Donald, and Amy and Shane Robinson. “It’s all about supporting the community.”

Across the street, Nathanael, Emma and Grace Koester, of Eugene, watched the parade while visiting family for the weekend.

“We’ve been here about 30 minutes,” 11-year-old Nathanael said around 5:45 p.m. “I think it’s pretty awesome (to have a parade at night) because you get to see all the lights and we’re going to get hot chocolate after.”

The family planned to visit the Festival of Lights after the parade. The night-time activities were a favorite of 9-year-old Emma Koester.

“I like it because we get to stay up late,” she said with a smile. As Santa waved from the back of a Coca-Cola truck and signaled the end of the parade, many of the onlookers ventured to the Festival of Lights to continue the launch of the holiday season under hundreds of thousands of colored lights and holiday displays.

“We wanted something fun to do this weekend,” Josh Wallace said while taking photos of 2-year-old Priya Wallace. “With the snow, this was just a perfect holiday setting.”

Weather permitting, the Festival of Lights will continue from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays until Dec. 19.

For more information, call the Umatilla County Fair Office at 541-567-6121.

      

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