Every holiday season, cities throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley light up the night with dazzling Christmas lights the whole family can enjoy. One river city making a name for itself is Gallipolis, with Gallipolis In Lights in its sixth year.
Gallipolis In Lights began in 2013 when Shari Rocchi and Lance Clifford formed a small committee to coordinate holiday decor efforts. “My family and I traveled to an out of town light display around the holidays in 2012, then returned to Gallipolis to see our half-lit snowflake arch in the park. We were so disappointed that I put a post on Facebook stating I would give some money and volunteer my time to help brighten up the holidays at our park,” said Shari. “The first year we made 300 light balls, had a Santa house built, and I asked area schools to decorate and display a tree around the Santa House.”
We now have over 1,800 light balls, 216 community-decorated trees, tons of light displays, a dancing tree farm, a live nativity, fireworks and much more!
Over the past six years, Gallipolis In Lights has continued to grow and now the impressive display takes over City Park in the center of town. “We now have over 1,800 light balls, 216 community-decorated trees, tons of light displays, a dancing tree farm, a live nativity, fireworks and much more!” Shari said.
Each year, community volunteers come together to make the light balls out of chicken wire, zip ties, and strings of lights. “We have a couple of workshops to create light balls for community involvement, a couple of big FUNdraisers throughout the year, and some volunteers to help with putting up lights,” said Shari. “But most is completed by about ten dedicated, faithful, and hardworking people that belong to our community.”
Thousands of people visit City Park to see the display, which was listed in “15 Christmas Light Displays in Ohio That Are Pure Magic” in 2016. Local photographer Gary Coleman beautifully captured the magic of this year’s light display.
“As a photographer, I enjoy sharing what I see through my lens,” said Gary. “I especially enjoy night photography because you can manipulate the light much more at night than in the day. Buildings, bridges, streets all take on a different character at night. And let’s face it, no one enjoys Christmas lights in the daytime.”
The end result is stunning. Not only for the sheer number of lights, but for the copious amounts of love that go into producing Gallipolis In Lights each year. The display is truly a labor of love and it’s one that the entire community embraces and cherishes each winter.
It is nice to see people slow down to enjoy something of beauty, to take their children and share in the memories that they had as children of Christmas’ past.
“It has been said that Christmas is not only a season of rejoicing, but also one for reflection. I remember going with my parents when I was younger to look at Christmas lights. It was a big deal for a little kid like me to see people decorate for the holiday,” said Gary. “This year, I took my teenage daughter and one of my nieces to Gallipolis. As we waited for people to leave so I could photograph the lights, I could see the same wonderment, the same ‘look at all these lights’ look, as I had when I was younger, in the children walking with parents or grandparents. In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, it is nice to see people slow down to enjoy something of beauty, to take their children and share in the memories that they had as children of Christmas’ past. I believe community, no matter what community one lives in, is important.”
Shari believes Gallipolis In Lights has increased local residents’ pride in their community. It has become a staple, and for many, signifies the true start to the holiday season. “People travel from near and far to visit our little town,” she said. “Our community loves the joy it brings to all and especially the memories it is making for our kiddos. Walk around and just listen to everyone – it is simply amazing!”
As a visitor, the number of community decorated trees installed in the park was even more impressive than the hundreds of light balls hanging from the trees. “We have had people place a tree on our tree walk from two to three hours away,” said Shari. “We do not charge to put a community tree in the park because we want everyone to have the opportunity to have a tree and enjoy it.”
Many of the community trees are decorated by organizations, businesses, churches, or local nonprofits, while others are installed by individuals. “These lights show a community celebrating Christmas with the large displays,” said Gary. “Some of the smaller trees celebrate individual organizations, but others celebrate a life that was lost – sharing a memory with others. But that’s what it is all about. A community sharing.”
Photography by Gary Coleman