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HUNTINGTON — Dedicated to keep the Christmas spirit alive despite COVID-19, YMCA staff members are creating a drive thru “extravaganza” for community members to enjoy starting Thanksgiving night.

“2020 has been a very tough year for everybody and we are determined not to let COVID ruin Christmas, so the YMCA is getting ready to deliver a very big dose of Christmas cheer with this event,” YMCA CEO Doug Korstanje said. “This is something families can do, and they don’t have to worry about going in someplace or COVID restrictions. This is all contained in the car and you can have a lot of fun with your family.”

Staff members are setting up Christmas decorations at the Kennedy Center off W.Va. 2 near Huntington including light displays, a life-size nativity set and a 65-foot-tall light tree. The event will also include 10 different movie screens to show short clips from famous Christmas movies such as “Home Alone” “A Christmas Story” and more.

The event will take place from 6-10 p.m. Nov. 26-29 and Dec. 3-6. Staff members said if the first two weekends have a good turnout, they will try to have another run the following weekend.

Korstanje said the mile-long trail should take visitors around 30 minutes to complete and will give them a chance to enjoy the displays and discuss some of their favorite Christmas movies in a different environment.

“You can stream and download your favorite movies and watch those at home, but this is a chance to see the scenes with your family and reminisce about your favorite Christmas movie,” he said. “We all have a favorite Christmas movie that helps get us into the Christmas spirit, so this will give people and families a chance to talk about what’s their favorite Christmas movie as they drive through.”

COO Brian Byrd said employees began working on the displays roughly four weeks ago. They have taken time to not only build stands and protective covers for displays but also to create new roads for participants to follow.

Byrd said he understands it may be tough for people to enjoy some of their regular traditions this holiday season because of the novel coronavirus, but he hopes people take the opportunity to come see what the YMCA employees have created.

“During this pandemic, people just want to get out and do something,” he said. “Hopefully people can come out and enjoy themselves, even just for a few minutes while they drive through here and see something very bright and entertaining.”

There will be a minimum $10 donation from each car. Byrd said the money will go directly to help fund the YMCA youth and senior programs such as basketball, soccer, swimming and more.

“All the money we make goes back into the programs, to the youth and senior programs,” he said. “It’s not just basketball, though. A lot of people only know us for basketball, but we also have swimming, SilverSneakers workouts, pickleball for seniors. Soccer, swimming and even some schools come and use the trails for track or cross country. We’ve got a lot more than people think, and the donations will just go to help them.”

Korstanje emphasized this will be a drive-thru event, not a drive-in one, but he still thinks it will be a fun opportunity for all who decide to participate.

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