3 events turn downtown Middletown into holiday destination

Nov. 13—Those looking for diverse holiday activities this year may want to consider visiting downtown Middletown.

The city has at least three major holiday events this year, including an appearance from Middletown native Kyle Schwarber, who will serve as grand marshal of the Santa Parade after helping the Philadelphia Phillies to their first postseason since 2011.

Here is the look at those events:

Light Up Middletown

Light Up Middletown, a drive-through holiday lights display at Smith Park, kicks off its 21st season Thanksgiving and runs through Jan. 1, 2023. LUM is open from 6 to 10 p.m. and will feature new displays this year, said Bill Becker, a member of the Grandpa Gang that assembles the lights every year.

Admission is by donation and proceeds assist in the upkeep of the lights and park improvements, Becker said.

He said the Grandpa Gang, an all-volunteer unit, has been helped by unseasonable warm weather.

"We've never been this far along at this time," Becker said.

Santa Parade

The 15th Santa Parade kicks off at 4 p.m. Nov. 26 from MidPointe Library and concludes at Manchester Avenue, said Linda Moorman, event organizer.

This may be the first time Santa is the second most popular guy in the parade.

"People are excited to see Kyle," Moorman said. "He's a good and positive for Middletown."

Besides Schwarber, the parade will feature Mr. and Mrs. Claus riding in a Middletown fire truck, numerous floats, characters in costumes, musical groups and dance teams,

Moorman said as a child she remembers going downtown and seeing Santa.

"I want other kids to experience that," she said. "It makes me feel good."

When the parade ends, the official city of Middletown Christmas tree will be lit, she said.

Middletown Holiday Whopla

Middletown Holiday Whopla returns for its second season and Avinne Kiser, the founder, said visitors will see a larger ice rink, a Polar Express train ride, food trucks, beer and wine garden, rentable heated igloos, a Christmas Carol Off and extended days.

She said organizers have increased their advertising in hopes of attracting more visitors from outside Middletown.

"We threw a party last year. This year we decided to invite people," Kiser said with a laugh. "We got our act together with marketing."

Holiday Whopla opens Nov. 18 though Jan. 16 with various hours seven days a week, she said. It will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

The Polar Express train will run near the ice rink Dec. 9-10 and Dec. 16-17, she said.

John Ferrando, vice president of Whopla, said the non-profit organization hopes to make it a more permanent event.

"We want to make an impact for years to come," he said.

The group also has added a Christmas Carol Off from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 21 at Sorg Opera House. Three choirs will win cash prices. Admission is $10 per person. Proceeds will benefit the Sorg and Whopla.

For more information, go to www.holidaywhopla.com.