Christmas was always a big deal for Walter Miraglia’s family.
He recalls hundreds of neighbors visiting his mother’s family farm on the Manfredi Trucking property in Newbury Township for meals at Christmastime and being sent home with sumptuous “doggie bags.”
While the property now is leased out to other businesses and many family members have passed since then, Miraglia has found a new way to reach his community during the holidays.
He and two silent partners are making a major investment in a huge undertaking to transform his Berkshire Hills Golf Course into a winter wonderland.
Nov. 23 is the grand opening of Bethlehem Hills Christmas Light Park at 9760 Mayfield Road, Chester Township. The drive-through park will be open through New Year’s Day.
Hours are from 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $25 per car, which includes a program with local coupons as well as a $10 off coupon toward the purchase of a Christmas tree at the “North Pole” onsite.
“I still feel like a kid this time of year,” Miraglia said. “I wanted to create a destination where adults could come and rekindle their childhood memories and create new memories with their own children.”
The park will include 40 displays incorporating more than 2 million LED lights, each computer-chipped to enhance the experience. The Manor House alone will host about 300,000 lights, all set to music.
Displays include a Christmas Carnival, Candy Cane Village, an elaborate recreation of the Nativity scene, Salute to Our Armed Services, Toyland, Frosty and Friends and more. The displays will be set throughout the 1.25-mile drive through 240 acres of rolling hills, woods and water features.
Each exhibit is being built by Huntsburg Township craftsman Rodney Nagy, who met Miraglia at St. Helen Catholic Church in Newbury.
“He used to help his dad set up lights at Nela Park,” Miraglia said. “He’s like a mad scientist. This guy is unbelievable. Some of the displays he’s building would cost thousands of dollars. There’s nothing he can’t do.”
After meandering through the light exhibit, guests can visit the North Pole, where a variety of fresh Christmas trees will be sold as well as hot chocolate and other goodies.
In addition, several guest visitors will appear throughout the season, including former Cleveland TV news anchor Denise Dufala, at the grand opening Nov. 23, hall-of-fame broadcaster Larry Morrow and, of course, Santa Claus will make several visits throughout the season.
Fifty percent of the proceeds will go toward three charities: the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House and Valor Retreat at High Rock. The Valor Retreat is a new, local nonprofit organization involved in building handicap-accessible cabins in Hocking Hills for returning Armed Services personnel to vacation free of charge with their families.
“It will be a place to reconnect, relax and heal,” said Margie Wilber, who is on the Valor Retreat board of directors.
Miraglia served in the U.S. Marine Corp as a young man, and has family members who succumbed to cancer, so the charities are near and dear to his heart.
He and his partners are investing about $800,000 out of their own pockets for the light project.
“I have been blessed in life, and I wanted to create something for people to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas,” he said. “For me, I don’t say, ‘Happy Holidays.’ I unapologetically exclaim, ‘Merry Christmas,’ to all this season.”
The golf course will remain open until the first snow, he said.
Vehicle clearance is less than 9 feet. For more information, visit BethlehemHillsLights.fun or call 440-478-9151.