Old Santee Canal to light up holidays

Dave Lee of Santee Cooper opens some wire protectors while setting up for Old Santee Canal Park’s new drive-through light show, Celebrate the Season.

Moncks Corner -- Old Santee Canal Park is decking its halls in a whole new way this holiday season.

The park is opening Celebrate the Season, a one-mile drive-thru light display, intended not only to help visitors celebrate the holidays but also as a fundraiser for local charities.

"It's just another opportunity for something to do during the holidays," said park director Troy Diel, who has been planning the show since January.

Diel said it is not competition for Charleston County Park and Recreation's Holiday Festival of Lights, which is about an hour's drive from Moncks Corner. "We're nowhere near James Island in experience either," Diel said. "They have 22 years putting on a light show. Would I like to be there one day? Of course. This is just year one of what we hope will be many more to come."

Diel said the park held a one-day holiday market last year and expected about 500 visitors. Instead, 3,000 people came. "That was when we decided to expand it," he said. "The response from the community has been 100 percent excitement."

Diel said park officials and employees from Santee Cooper, which owns the park, studied the infrastructure to determine the placement of the 50 displays, some of which are 35 feet tall. The park is using a handful of displays from past holiday seasons and purchased about 40 new ones.

"We have some small displays we made ourselves, but we had to look through a catalog to choose the new ones," he said. "It's difficult to do this when you talk about going from a one-day event to 34 days."

The cost of purchasing displays is offset by sponsorships from local businesses and civic groups, he said.

All of the displays use LED lights, which are 90 percent more efficient than traditional lights. Asked what kind of electric bill he expected, Diel said, "I don't know, but it will be 90 percent less than it could have been."

In addition, the show is powered by Santee Cooper Green Power, which is generated by South Carolina renewable resources, such as landfill gas, solar and wind energy, adding even more "green" to the holidays.

The event is not intended as a money-maker. Instead, gate admission will be donated to Trident United Way's Berkeley initiatives and the Berkeley County Museum, which is on the grounds of the park.

Weekends will feature holiday events, such as musical entertainment, food, marshmallow roasts, arts and crafts, 8-foot-tall wooden holiday cards made by Berkeley County school groups, and visits with Santa. The Town and Village Garden Club is decorating the historic Stony House in a style authentic to its time.

Food sales during the fairs also will benefit local charities.

"'Celebrate the Season' is a gift to Berkeley County residents and to those who live in nearby communities," Diel said. "It really represents the community coming together in the spirit of the season. It's a new community tradition that we hope will bring people back throughout this season and in years to come."

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or on Facebook.

What: Celebrate the Season

Where: Old Santee Canal Park, 900 Stony Landing Road, Moncks Corner

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 31, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours are 6-9 p.m. weekdays and 5-9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Admission: $5/vehicle, up to 15-passenger vehicles. Call for group rates.

Details: Vehicles will enter the show through Santee Cooper's entrance and then go through the back gate of the park, ending near the park gatehouse. Visitors can drive through as many times as they'd like in one night. Holiday festivals will be held on the weekends.

More information: www.oldsanteecanalpark.org/celebratetheseason or 899-5200.