By Joyce Hensley

Staff writer

HERMISTON — The Festival of Lights will kick off Friday with a lighted parade down Main Street and wind up at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds.

The annual event will feature the holiday light display at the fairgrounds. According to Wendi Kelley, manager of the Umatilla County Fair, the lighted displays will consist of 14 miles of strung lights — 2 million lights in all. Visitors will also be treated to carriage rides and hot chocolate. Vendors will be set up in Thompson Hall.

The festivities start at 6 p.m. with the parade, sponsored by the city of Hermiston.

Santa Claus will be greeting parade watchers before arriving at the fairgrounds.

Awards will be given to the best lighted parade entries. First prize will be $300; second place $200; and third prize $100.

All entries must be lighted, said Kelley.

Those wishing to enter the parade can register with the fairgrounds office right up to the day of the parade.

The Festival of Lights will be open each Friday through Sunday from the day after Thanksgiving until Sunday, Dec. 21.

Kelley said it may be extended to Dec. 23 if attendance requires it.

Kelley said they are asking folks to stay on the paths as they walk around the fairgrounds admiring the lighted displays.

Also at the fairgrounds stalls will be Santa's reindeer.

Each night different vendors will display their merchandise in Thompson Hall.

"Opening night we'll have 35 vendors," Kelley said. "The first week is our biggest for vendors."

Visitors to the Festival of Lights can ride around the fairgrounds looking at the numerous light displays in a horse-drawn wagon for free or pay $1 for a jaunt around in a horse drawn carriage.

Immediately after the parade, Santa will be found in Santa's House in Thompson Hall. Children can visit Santa free of charge.

Photos taken with Santa will cost $5.

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