Oneonta ‘Festival’ and County ‘Trail’ light up the holiday season

This year’s Festival of Lights has over 40 exhibitions for your viewing pleasure.

By Kevin Limiti

The Christmas season has officially arrived, which means holiday music, family reunion, opening gifts, and waiting for Santa.

But there is nothing that screams the holiday spirit more than what the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism / Addictions Foundation (LEAF) is doing to call attention to the stunning light shows that local residents proudly display in the county. from Otsego.

And it’s for a good cause: LEAF created the “Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail” three years ago as a sure way to promote sober driving.

“We kept seeing people asking ‘where are the great light shows? ” Julie Dostal, executive director of LEAF, told Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “We saw that there was no central light display resource.”

She said that December is “3-D Awareness Month,” which stands for drunk / drug / drowsy driving.
Residents of Otsego County who decorated their homes submit their addresses to LEAF so people can hop into their cars at different addresses, perhaps with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, and admire the festive decorations.

“We thought it would be a good game for us to have people driving,” Ms. Dostal said. “So many people on the roads are going to see family. We disseminate information on prevention.

Ms Dostal called the message behind sober driving while on vacation “somewhat shocking.”

“You never want to think about it, especially not on vacation,” she said. “We thought, ‘What if we put a positive spin on it? “”

A Google Maps database lists participating homes across Otsego County – in Cooperstown, Oneonta, Richfield Springs, Unadilla, and more. Find the trail at

If the Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail isn’t enough to satisfy the itchy holiday illuminations, the second annual Oneonta Festival of Lights begins on Thursday, December 16 and continues through Saturday, January 1 at Neahwa Park. The festival features illuminated displays throughout the park of community groups and organizations.

“First Night Oneonta and Five Star Subaru present the Oneonta Festival of Lights behind the wheel, and we have great things planned for the community,” said Carol Mandigo, President of First Night Oneonta.
“On Saturday December 18th, 5-8pm, we will have a special pedestrian zone with Santa Claus and shows from Cosmic Karma Fire, Mike the Juggler, DrumQuest and Hill City Ice Queen and Friends,” she said. Mandigo said. “We want the community to come out and have fun.”

Similar to LEAF, all First Night events are alcohol-free, family-friendly, and free.

“We are able to offer this free event thanks to our wonderful community sponsors,” she said.

Visit for more information on the Festival of Lights; to learn more about the path of light, visit Facebook or contact LEAF at

The Otsego County Fair is also presenting another weekend for its third annual “Drive Thru Holiday of Lights” from 6 to 9 p.m. on December 17 and 18 at the Morris Fairgrounds. Admission is $ 10 per car.

One of the many stops on the Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail thanks the county’s essential workers.

About Ethel Partin

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