Overly’s Country Christmas
In Westmoreland County
by Karen Fetter
Overly’s Country Christmas Fun
As the holiday season approaches, many Westmoreland County residents have made visiting the Overly’s Country Christmas display a tradition.
Located at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds in Norvelt, this mesmerizing holiday light display of 2.4 million twinkling lights is unlike any other. Not only can cars drive through the meticulous and animated light display, but sightseers can also walk through the many attractions that make Overly’s Country Christmas so special.
The Special Overly Experience
The holiday experience begins with the drive-through tour of the light display. The donation fee per vehicle is $10.00 Monday through Thursday and $12.00 Friday through Sunday. There is an additional fee for limousines, extended passenger van or minibuses.
Next, visitors can park and then enter into the village area. No one should miss the extensive model train display or treats of hot chocolate or funnel cake. You can even buy marshmallows and sticks and head over to the bonfire for roasting and caroling. Children can ride a mini train or the entire family can hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage that travels throughout the village. Santa is even on location before Christmas to pose for photos with youngsters.
Now, if shopping is what you desire then do not hesitate to visit the C. Edgar & Sons General Store for gifts and memorabilia. Many of these attractions are enclosed in old-time wooden structures to simulate a village. Visitors truly feel like they are experiencing a winter wonderland! And the best part is that all donations from each vehicle support charity, a goal that creator Harry Overly wanted to carry on beyond his own capabilities.
How Did It All Start?
Harry originally started the light display over 50 years ago at his home in Armburst simply to entertain his own four children. Suddenly, people began to drive by to see the extensive display. Harry decided to expand the display onto his 7-acre property. Even with more lights he did not stop his attention to detail. Now it wasn’t just neighbors, but people from coming from all over the region. At this point people started to help Harry and volunteer to play Santa, Mrs. Claus, and elves. They passed out lollipops to those driving by. Then one woman’s act of generosity shifted the focus of the light display. She handed Harry a one-dollar bill and thanked him for entertaining her children. He told her that there was no charge and she told him to donate it to charity.
From that moment Harry decided that the money raised would be donated to benefit children’s causes. During the 35 years of his house display he donated nearly one million dollars to the Free Care Fund at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and children’s medical services at Westmoreland Regional Hospital in Greensburg.
After the 1983-84 seasons, Harry suffered a heart attack and was forced to take a year off. The community felt lost without seeing the infamous light display. So the next year, groups from schools, business, and friends and neighbors all volunteered to make sure the display would go on. Today nearly 600 volunteers work to make the light display happen!
Then in 1991 he announced that a new and larger site would be needed so that the display could grow and help more children. Idlewild Park hosted the display for a transitional year until Overly’s Country Christmas found its new home at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds.
In 1994 the display was incorporated to ensure its continued success for years to come. That success has come to fruition and is known not just by local residents, but nationally as well. Overly’s Country Christmas has been featured on “Good Morning America” and on other television programs and was named one of America’s Best Outdoor Light Displays by Good Housekeeping in 1983.
The True Meaning Behind It All
IIn addition to donating money to charities, Overly’s Country Christmas also helps the community in other ways through programs such as “Family Moments Programs” and “Share the Magic.” The Family Moments Program allows families to experience Overly’s Country Christmas at no charge in order to build family bonds and communication, a need that has become necessary to fill for at-risk families in Westmoreland County as well as Somerset, Allegheny, and Fayette counties. The Share the Magic program donates any extra food products from the holiday season to local women’s and children’s shelters, homeless shelters and food pantries. Overly’s Country Christmas also collects donations of new, unwrapped toys, nonperishable food items and pet food to help local nonprofit organizations.
Furthermore, Overly’s Country Christmas has worked with the Westmoreland County Juvenile Probation Department since 1994. The troubled youths can give back to the community and help to continue to provide holiday memories and traditions to everyone who visits.
Although Harry has now passed away, his memory will continue to live on through the Overly’s County Christmas light display each year and how it reminds people what the holiday season really means.
Come And Make a Memory!
If you are thinking about visiting Overly’s Country Christmas display this season you should consider the following tips to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. so it is best to arrive early and plan on spending about 1 to 1.5 hours. Follow Overly’s Country Christmas on Twitter or on Facebook for announcements of any changes in closing times if the weather is inclement. The busiest time to visit the display is on weekends in December, specifically Saturday nights. Wait times can be as long as an hour. Also, be aware that the line is weaved through the fairgrounds so the course may be muddy. And lastly, dress warm so you can enjoy the outdoor village after you see the light display.
The 2012-13 display will begin on November 16. Hours include Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Be sure to make this holiday season complete by visiting Overly’s Country Christmas light display! For further information, visit www.overlys.com, follow on Twitter or Facebook, or call 724-423-1400.