For many who celebrate the Christmas holiday in York County, Christmas Magic at Rocky Ridge County Park is the highlight of the season with lights, music, food and displays.

The award-winning holiday event will return for its 32nd year on Friday, Nov. 27, and feature several new attractions.

"We have a bunch of new outdoor displays and some of those are animated, we got some new types of lights, and another section of our trails has been paved to make it easier for people to get through," said Jeri Jones, program coordinator for the Parks Department.

This year's event also features a brand new Santa Claus house scene constructed by students at the York County School of Technology, he said.

"The carpenters did the walls and the doorway for us — they've done their layout and added a little bit of a second level of trains on the inside, they've completed most of their work," Jones said.

Although last year's season was marred by inclement weather and the trail was closed for 10 of the 34 scheduled nights, Jones says he's not worried about the conditions this year.

"We started out bad losing six of our first 10 nights, I don't worry about the almanac," he said. "I just face it as it comes."

One of the antiques: York Factory Whistlemaster Don Ryan has been blowing off steam by donating his time and efforts to help set up Christmas Magic.

"I help with putting the lights up ... the lights and the music are going to be tied together, computerized-sequenced together," Ryan said.

Aside from being a volunteer staff member, Ryan has been a volunteer Santa Claus at Christmas Magic for many years.

"Years back, Jeri came to me and said we need a Santa, because the Santa's sick," Ryan said. "After he broke both my arms, I said yes, after that all I did was do it that year and I've been back ever since — it's very rewarding."

What's really rewarding, he said, is the sense of community that the event creates.

"Every night it's different, and one neat thing is that a lot of places have these Christmas lights up, but you have to drive through it — we're out there and you can walk through at your convenience, there's five buildings you can go through and just take your good old time," he said.

"The Girl Scouts go out there and they decorate Christmas trees on the inside from the different Girl Scout troops, there's just a lot of different community participation."

Ryan's favorite night to work as Santa is pet night, when pet owners are encouraged to bring their pets to the event and have their picture taken with Santa Claus.

"I love the dogs, and the dogs get along well with me," he said.

Members of the friends of Canine Meadows will be on hand to process each participant's picture and place it in a frame for $5, with all proceeds benefiting Canine Meadows in Rudy Park.

When he's not volunteering at Christmas Magic, Ryan keeps busy during the holiday season playing with his brass choir and performing as the Whistlemaster at the annual York Factory Whistle Concert.

"I'm one of the antiques in York," he said, "I do it for the love of it ... I enjoy working with the nice people out there, there's a lot of other people that volunteer — they're a nice group of people to work with — and I do it for the community."

Family atmosphere: Local musician Keith Andrew Grim will be performing acoustic renditions of Christmas songs on Dec. 19 and 23.

Several members of his family and friends will be performing alongside him throughout the sets.

"I think I started playing there since the early 2000s," Grim said.

"I play a lot of churches in the area — in fact I have altogether 10 Christmas gigs, I do a Christmas Cantata, and I'll be performing at some local churches and other churches in the state of Pennsylvania."

After attending the event when his children were young, he said, he saw musicians performing onstage and approached the management about playing Christmas Magic.

"I got in touch with Jeri Jones right after that, he said they were all filled that particular year, so the next year, in 2001 or 2002, I got connected, and Jeri's been nice enough to invite me back every year."

Most importantly, the music and lights serve to get participants in the spirit of the Christmas season, Grim said.

"I just enjoy the atmosphere — a lot of times I bring kids onstage, they play the bells and sing stuff like 'Rudolph' or 'Deck the Halls' ... it's just fun spreading the Christmas cheer."

"I would say it's a good family atmosphere for people to come to enjoy Christmas lights and good food too, I think it's just a good family atmosphere to get in the Christmas spirit."

Info Box:

When: Nov. 27 through Dec. 31 (closed Dec. 24 and 25)

Where: Rocky Ridge County Park is located east of York, 1.5 miles north of Route 30, off Mount Zion Road (Route 24). Park address: 3699 Deininger Road.

Times: Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Cost: adults, $8; children 4-12, $6; Age 3 and under, free; ages 60+, $7; children group rate (12+), $5; adult group rate (12+), $7.

Who: Sponsored by the York County Department of Parks and Recreation. All proceeds benefit the Parks Department. For information, call the hotline at (717) 840-7443 or visit online at For related updates, you can also follow on Twitter via @yorkcountyparks.

What: Christmas Magic is a 0.5-mile walking trail (accessible to anyone) that meanders along a wooded hilltop through nearly 600,000 Christmas lights, holiday scenes and five enclosed, heated pavilions. The spirit of the holiday is displayed by using animation, displays, Santa Claus, food and a G-gauge train display.

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