JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The magic of the Christmas season will be on full display during this joyous gathering.
The Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership will host its Hometown Christmas Stroll & Light Up Night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday in downtown Johnstown’s Central Park.
“We started this walk in 2020 because of COVID-19 and we’ve had such a positive response from it and the crowds continue to come out, so we decided to keep this format as opposed to a parade,” said Sharon Honkus, co-chairman of the event. “In a parade you line up and everything passes you by, but with this you have a chance to interact with the people. It makes for a very festive atmosphere.”
The walk will feature six hot air balloons, stationary trailers and groups located on Main Street between Walnut and Franklin streets.
A musical performance by the Johnstown Symphony Chorus will be offered from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. inside 416 Main St. Additional music will be provided throughout the evening, including a DJ stationed along Franklin Street and high school marching bands in the park area.
Santa in his sleigh will oversee the event from Gazebo Park and Main Street.
The Alternative Community Resource Program will provide treats to the first 500 children and food trucks will be on hand.
“The tour allows people to go around at their own pace,” Honkus said. “It’s also beneficial to the shops with people walking around town.”
At 7:30 p.m., people are invited to Central Park for the countdown to the lighting of the animated musical Christmas Tree @ Central Park.
“We have some little surprises built in this year,” Honkus said. “The tree contains 11 songs and the whole program takes almost 40 minutes to run through.”
The animated program will run from 12.00 to 13.00 and 17.00 to 23.00 daily until 7 January.
This year, five new houses were added to the Central Park Christmas Village, bringing the total to 40.
“People have really stepped it up with the houses, not only with the structure, but how they’re set up inside, and it’s almost become like a competition,” Honkus said. “When people saw the impact of the tree and the number of people coming through the city, it made businesses, even though they may not be downtown, want to be involved in a project that is very well received.”
In addition, some of the village houses will be animated to certain songs.
“We used to have 11 houses in the park and now every year it continues to grow with more and more people getting involved,” Honkus said. “The kids love the houses and they love looking inside them.”
The Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership will offer its merchandise store in the park that will be open Friday and Saturday evenings through the holiday season.
“We have mugs, Christmas decorations, light novelties and candy,” Honkus said. “A lot of people come in from the city and like to take something back with them.”
Additional activities throughout the holidays include the Downtown Johnstown Christmas Market from 16.00 to 20. 1 December and at 11 a.m. to 20.00 on 2 December; Christmas Express @ Central Park from 5pm to 8pm December 8 and 9; and a s’mores night from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16.
“Our original goal almost 10 years ago was to create an experience that replaced people who said they remembered Penn Traffic’s and Glosser’s windows, and I think we’ve done that,” Honkus said. “I think we’ve created a whole new generation of people who are going to remember the tree in Central Park.”
She said the hope is that people will come downtown and, along with enjoying the tree, will also patronize the new businesses and restaurants.
“We want people to experience the joy of the holiday season,” Honkus said.
Melissa Radovanic, president of the Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership, said people get excited every year about the Christmas tree and the village.
“When we decided to do this, our aim was to improve the Christmas experience downtown and for people to talk about what it looks like now,” she said. “Now, nine years into this, people are talking about the tree. They’re talking about Christmas Village, Christmas Express @ Central Park and s’mores night, so it’s brought a sense of community pride.”
For more information, visit www.discoverjohnstown.org or www.facebook.com/discoverdowntownjohnstown.