As you drive through neighborhoods during the holiday season, it is a joy to see the colorful lights shining and twinkling like stars in the night, lighting up homes and showing off the homeowners’ Christmas spirit. It’s a magical moment during what many would call the most wonderful time of the year.
For both kids and adults it is a joy to point out the displays, whether a string of lights or shapes and pictures formed with small lights. Holiday Lights at Veterans Park successfully captures and enhances this moment in a drive-through experience that shares the spirit of the season with all of Cherokee County, along with folks who come from outside of Georgia as well. Mark Lallathin and David Pitts are business partners who have been working on Holiday Lights of Hope at Woodstock’s Hobgood Park, a sixty-acre park where Towne Lake Parkway meets Bells Ferry Road, for twelve years.
“The county asked us to make an event to showcase Veterans Park,” David recalls. He and Mark drew on their experiences from working on lights at Hobgood Park and came together to make the impressive light display at Veterans Park. Seven years have come and gone, and going to Veterans Park for the holiday lights is still a tradition for many Cherokee County families.
Speed for Need
Just like its merry counterpart at Hobgood, Holiday Lights at Veterans Park benefits local charities, including those that benefit local veterans. The leading charity for its 5K event changes every year, and Mark and David are happy to announce that this year’s leading charity is Speed for Need. Speed for Need raises awareness and fosters inclusion of those with special needs through participation in fitness events supported by the men of F3 Nation, a peer-led workout group that promotes fitness and inclusivity. Volunteer drivers welcome Track Commanders—people with special needs—to complete 5Ks, 10Ks, and marathons using wheelchairs customized to their needs. The drivers from F3 Nation give the racers in wheelchairs a chance to complete a marathon just like those without disabilities. Track Commanders can be any people who cannot complete a race on their own, regardless of what caused their disability. Speed for Need has been making fitness inclusive since its first race six years ago.
According to Speed for Need volunteer Scott Luiña, the funds raised during the 2023 Holiday Lights 5K will allow the group to purchase additional custom Hoyt running chairs—valued at $5,000 each—and fund operational costs. Speed for Need is a volunteer-led organization, so all fundraiser proceeds directly benefit the riders, known as Track Commanders.
Driving Through a Christmas Movie
The Holiday Lights event begins Saturday, November 18, at 6:00 p.m. with a 5K through the park. Runners and Track Commanders will make their way through the park full of twinkling lights on foot or on wheels, getting a closer look at the bright and beautiful lights. When the track clears, the park opens for cars to flow through the bright displays, such as the show-stopping sixteen-foot by twenty-foot American flag display that showcases patriotism and support for the veterans for whom the park is named. The two-mile course is filled to the brim with more than two million lights.
With your friends and family in the warmth of your car instead of a chilly sleigh, you will certainly feel like you are experiencing a Christmas fairytale. Bring hot chocolate with marshmallows, tune into some Christmas music, and create magical memories for both young and old.
The Christmas spirit continues past December 25, though. The Holiday Lights display continues through Sunday, December 31. You can have both a merry Christmas and a happy new year as well.
The Holiday Lights at Veterans Park event opens for drive-throughs on Saturday, November 18, following the Holiday Lights 5K. After opening night the hours are 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
You can find Veterans Park at 7345 Cumming Highway in Canton.
Admission is $20 a car or $50 for a season pass.
The event continues rain or shine except in the event of power outages. Be sure to check the Holiday Lights at Veterans Park Facebook page for updates in the case of inclement weather. The last day of the display will be Sunday, December 31.
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Nick Feehery has been a proud Cherokee County resident his whole life. He is a student at Cherokee High School with a love of drawing and writing stories. He plans to study journalism at Kennesaw State University.