ENTERPRISE — Hundreds of holiday celebrants turned out Friday, Dec. 18, for the opening night of the Fair Lights Christmas display at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds.
Since COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the annual Winterfest celebration in downtown Enterprise, it provided families with an alternative.
“We had this planned before we knew they weren’t going to do the parade,” said Debi Warnock, of Oregon State University Extension and fair board volunteer, who helped orchestrate the event. “It gave people who usually go downtown an event to come to.”
Warnock said there were more than 200 vehicles that went through the fairgrounds to view the displays on its opening night. She said each car had at least two people and some as many as 10.
“I estimate there at least 600 people, which blows me away,” she said.
The opening night was hosted by members of the Wallowa County Fair Board handing out “Santa bags” of goodies, hot drinks and roasted chestnuts. All were packaged so chances of COVID-19 contamination were minimal. The opening night was the only one to be hosted, but the displays will remain through Sunday.
Warnock said attendance since Friday has been down a bit, which was not surprising. She said they’ll be keeping a count of the cars through its final night Sunday, Dec. 27, and will tally up the numbers after that.
Fair Board Chairwoman Brinda Stanley said before the event she had high hopes for it.
“I’m hoping we get a good crowd,” she said. “The community’s been wonderful and came out and supported our fair. … It’s a chance for people to get out an enjoy the holiday.”
Warnock said the 20 displays were put together by local businesses, at least one church and other organizations.
She said there’s “everything from a manger, to livestock, to trees and reindeer. There’s lots of variety.”
All, of course, are Christmas themed.
“Every single one of them is unique,” she said. “There are some really great displays. There’s lots of lights; lots of sparkle.”
She was particularly impressed by the turnout — which resulted in quite a traffic jam at the fairgrounds gate — for the opening night.
“I was amazed. I don’t think we could’ve asked for anything better Friday night,” she said. “We are very thankful for the community’s participation, the people who donated to the Santa bags and put up displays. It’s turned into a full community event.”