It takes a village to put on Kitsap County’s biggest light show

KINGSTON — At 5 p.m. Dec. 2, Santa Claus will say the magic words and turn Kingston’s marina park into a Kingston Cove Christmas wonderland.

Six hundred luminary sculptures will spring to life, including a giant turtle, rocking horse, flowers, and a sea serpent whose loops are big enough for kids to walk under.

More than 500,000 lights and three-quarters of a mile of rope lighting will illuminate trees, railings, pathways and bushes. A 40-foot Christmas tree will be all aglow and the marina will be a festive forest of lighted masts and boats.

“I think the lights are crucial,” Kingston Cove Christmas co-chair Cheryl Graham said. “They bring Christmas joy to the kids.”

And grownup kids, as well, it seems.

Last year, Port of Kingston staff estimate some 30,000 children and adults toured the park during the month of December. Many people came from as far away as Bellingham for the lighting — 30 or 50 in a swarm — according to Raymond Carpenter, Port of Kingston facilities manager, who has worked on the holiday wonderland of lights since its inception in 2009.

Behind the lights

Work on this year’s lights began in March. That’s when port staff member Steve von Marenholtz started designing and welding the steel wire-frame skeletons for this year’s new light sculptures, including a jack-in-the-box and a sailboat.

Since September, 13 volunteers have been adding lights to these sculptures and repairing the lights on older ones. Meanwhile, seven members of the port staff have been putting up the lights with the assistance of members of the Kingston High School Honor Society.

This marks the third year the students have been involved, said Honors Society adviser Terry Darrow.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” said Leif Whalen, a junior.

“You want to make sure you have good spacing and you’re using the right amount of lights — a lot more organization than you might think,” senior Nathan Sax added.

“And make sure they light up, too,” senior Elizabeth Ramirez chimed in.

So how many hours does it take to put up 500,000 lights and 600 light sculptures?

“All told, it probably takes a thousand hours [of staff and volunteer time] from start to finish,” Carpenter said.

Von Marenholtz said, “Besides lighting the new sculptures, we’re going back and re-doing some of the older sculptures. New pieces this year include a jack-in-the-box and sailboat and several of the sculptures are animated.”

The lighting ceremony will be the culmination of a day-long series of events and activities that will take place Dec. 2.

And it’s all made possible by Kingston area volunteers, businesses and organizations. The Port of Kingston is responsible for the lighted sculpture garden; the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce co-ordinates the day’s events and activities.

Festival of Trees and Holiday Gift Fair

The day’s events will begin with the Festival of Trees and Holiday Gift Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Village Green Community Center, 26159 Dulay Road NE. This marks the second year for this event that features a silent auction of decorated yuletide trees. The trees will be on display through Dec. 16 and the proceeds will go to the village Green Foundation, according to Mary McClure, the foundation president.

DEK Kiwanis’ Santa’s workshop

Ten Kiwanis members and another six to eight members of the Kingston High School Key club will be staffing the Kiwanis’ Santa’s workshop from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Kingston Cove Yacht Club, 25878 Washington Blvd NE, adjacent to the marina park. A free event, youngsters will be able to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus while their grownups take pictures. Then the youngsters can make presents, Christmas ornaments, greeting cards and decorations – for family members and friends. The youngsters can’t be left unattended, but often one family member will stay with a group of youngsters, so other adult members

can go Christmas shopping or visit food vendors and the Chamber of Commerce’s wine and beer garden, staffed by another 10 volunteers.

“Our focus is serving children in our community,” said Ron Shoaf, president of the Greater Kingston Kiwanis Club. “Santa’s Workshop is one of our annual Family Builder events … Seeing the children’s’ joy, making small gifts for others, is one of the greatest gifts.”

Grand opening on new Port of Kingston Offices

The public will get a first look at the Port’s new office spaces at 3 p.m. The new 900 square-foot, ground-level reception area features an exhibit of historic photographs cataloging the Port’s growth since its formation in 1919. Hot cocoa and refreshments will be served.

Holiday music

From 3:30 – 4:30 p.m., 20 members of the Kingston High School Jazz Band and Choir, under the baton of Thomas Guenther, director of bands, choir, and recording arts, will perform in the pavilion in marina park. At 4:30 p.m., they will turn the stage over to Elvis impersonator Danny Vernon who will perform some of Presley’s most beloved holiday songs.

“Danny has been voted on to the top 10 Elvis impersonators in the country,” said Colleen Carey, executive director of the Greater Kitsap Chamber of Commerce. “Danny loves Kingston and Kingston loves Danny,” she said.

Santa’s arrival and turning on the lights

At 5 p.m. Santa Claus will arrive on a North Kitsap Fire & Rescue fire engine, a tradition that appears to go back at least a quarter century, back to when the event was called Kingston Country Christmas. No one knows for certain when the tradition of having a festival began. But, locals recall seeing Santa ride in on a fire engine and light up the tall fir tree that once stood in the park about where the pavilion is now. (The tree is no longer there. This year’s 40 foot-tall Christmas tree was donated by a local property owner.) Santa will be assisted by 12 members of the High School Leo Club dressed up as elves.

Lighted Boat parade

“We’ve been doing the lighted boat parade, well, I guess since forever,” said Nancy Langwith, Kingston Cove Yacht Club vice commodore and a member of the Chamber’s Events Committee. “On Dec. 2, first the park lights up and then all of the decorated boats in the marina light up. Then we leave the harbor to parade up and down. The yacht club goes all out for the event and there’s a lot of competition for who can have the best-decorated boat. We’ll have about 13 boats this year, but almost all 135 yacht club members participate in the event.”

Fifteen members of the Community Beautification Committee will be judging the winners of this year’s boat decoration contest. Before that, they will have baked free homemade cookies for the anticipated crowd of 2,000 spectators at the event.

Santa’s Scavenger Hunt

The marina park’s holiday lights come on every night from dusk to dawn from Dec. 2 through Jan. 7. During that time, youngsters age 14 and younger can take part in Santa’s Scavenger Hunt and win prizes from Little City Candy & Gifts, Westside Pizza, Sweet Life Cakery, Firehouse Theater, The Kingston Ale

House, Pizza Factory and the Kingston Bookery. After getting a free entry form from the Port office or a local business, youngsters identify nine light sculptures in the marina park. Then they can take their completed forms to the eight participating businesses to claim a prize from each one.

It takes a village

“It truly does take a village of volunteers to pull this off, year after year,” said Port of Kingston Executive Director Jim Pivarnik. “And every year Kingston Cove Christmas gets bigger and better. It’s our gift to the folks who live in Kitsap.”

Kingston Cove lights

Kingston Cove lights

All of the frames that the lights hang on are made by local volunteers.

All of the frames that the lights hang on are made by local volunteers.

Holiday lights form sea turtles.

Holiday lights form sea turtles.