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After being canceled last year, the annual Holiday Lights at Coonskin Park will be back on this holiday season.

The lights will be open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly starting Friday and continuing through Christmas.

An tradition since around 2000, the holiday lights didn’t go up last year because of staffing problems at the park, said Jeff Hutchinson, executive director of the Kanawha Parks and Recreation Commission.

“We couldn’t get anyone to work to do it,” Hutchinson said, adding that putting the displays together takes the help of part-time workers. “We couldn’t get it done.”

This year, a delay receiving an order of between 25,000 and 30,000 light bulbs put the park in a rush to set up the displays in time.

Hutchinson said the colored, LED light bulbs needed for the displays couldn’t be purchased locally, so the parks commission ordered them from a Chinese manufacturer in June. They didn’t receive them until mid-October.

“Just with the shipping — a lot of that stuff comes by boat, and you know what that’s like if you’re watching the news,” Hutchinson said. “You can’t get anything into the ports.”

In a typical year, park staff begin putting up the displays in August, Hutchinson said, but they largely had to wait on the light bulbs to be delivered.

“A lot of those displays, we robbed Peter to pay Paul and we switched out the ones that had the fixtures that were bad,” Hutchinson said. “We scavenged the bulbs and used them where we needed to in the fixtures that we wouldn’t have had time to have lit with the LEDs.”

Four women inmates from the Department of Corrections’ work-release unit helped the staff members with the lights this year, Hutchinson said.

“The ladies are more used to doing more of that kind of work,” he said. “They did it a lot faster and a lot better than what the guys do ... The ladies did a good job for us.”

In typical years, the park partners on the display with a handful of community organizations who greet visitors, and the park splits any donations received between the groups.

This year, because of COVID-19, there will be no greeters, Hutchinson said.

“We don’t want to get people touching,” he said. “It’s just not safe.”

In addition to the lights, county officials are also planning a Christmas tree lighting ceremony for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday by the Coonskin Park clubhouse.

Lori Kersey covers the city and county. She can be reached at 304-348-1240 or lori.kersey@hdmediallc.com. Follow

@LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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