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Holiday lights return to the city

Animated characters and blinking lights returned to the city Friday night after heavy rains drowned out Wednesday's scheduled opening.

The Holiday Lights of Niagara drive-through display moved to Hyde Park in Niagara Falls this year after operating for three years in Oppenheim Park in Wheatfield. The free event will run daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 31. It features 35 displays and lighted trees.

"It's going to be a beautiful thing just to go see with your family," said Carol G. Houwaart-Diez, president of United Way of Niagara.

Houwaart-Diez said the new venue will allow the organization to offer indoor family events, including open skate nights and visits with Santa Claus.

It is the first time a large holiday light display has run in the city since the Festival of Lights shut down eight years ago.

The city provided $30,000 from its tourism fund to help bring the event to Hyde Park.

"It's been an effort to bring back some of the things that people long for and were proud of when it came to representing the city," Mayor Vince Anello said.

Special events on the schedule include:

Christmas karaoke and carriage rides will be available from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays beginning next week.

Santa Claus will pose for photographs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. each Saturday until Christmas in the Hyde Park ice pavilion.

Open skate night will be held from 7:30 to 9:20 p.m. Dec. 1, 15, 22 and 29 at the ice pavilion.

Santa Claus, Darth Vadar and other characters will appear at a holiday breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Dec 8 in Antonio's Restaurant on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Houwaart-Diez said the United Way is attempting to boost the number of family events that run in conjunction with the holiday lights.

"We're going back to the drawing board," Houwaart-Diez said. "We've gotten some support from the city administration; and with great financial support from sponsors, we've been able to bring it back to Niagara Falls."

e-mail: djewell@buffnews.com

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