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Howard County aglow: Your guide to festive light viewing opportunities

With the holiday season in full swing, Howard County is aglow. From homes to churches to professional exhibits, festive light displays can be found across the region, adding a sparkle to the cold, dark nights.

To make it easier to find these colorful displays, county officials released an online holiday lights mapping resource that includes a description, photos, address, special instructions, dates and hours for each.

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“Howard County is full of holiday spirit, and we want to share that joy with everyone,” County Executive Calvin Ball said in an email. “So many families already have a tradition of seeking out light displays, and we hope the HoCo Holiday Lights map makes it much easier for our community to find homes, businesses and other lights throughout our county. As we enter the second holiday season in a pandemic, we want to do everything we can to help spread holiday cheer.”

HoCo Holiday Lights can be updated by homeowners or businesses who would like to have their light displays included.

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A new drive-thru light display featured on the map is at the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum in West Friendship. The museum’s buildings, farm equipment and displays are all decorated along the 1.5-mile loop, according to John Frank, president of the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club.

“We’ve been planning it for about five years now,” Frank said. “We’re finally getting around to making it available for folks to come out and enjoy themselves.”

Participants must register in advance for a time slot, and proceeds benefit the Heritage Museum. The lights will be on 6-9 p.m., every weekend, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

“We’ve been working on it a number of weeks and people who frequent the nature trails have had the opportunity to see us put this together,” Frank said. “They’re excited and very positive. We’re hoping everybody feels that way.”

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Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department held a tree lighting on Dec. 7 and will put up more lights around the station in the coming weeks, according to chief Russell Pryor.

“It will feel a little more cozy,” Pryor said. “It makes you feel part of the community when you put lights up.”

The department will also give Santa Claus a ride through neighborhoods on a firetruck Dec. 12-15. An online schedule is posted to alert families when Santa will be coming down their street.

“We try to do whatever we can to mingle with the community,” Pryor said.

Light displays are not the only thing listed on the HoCo Holiday map. Two train displays, one at the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum and the other at the Gary J. Arthur Community Center in Cooksville, are also featured.

Stephanie Simon, director at Gary J. Arthur Community Center, said that typically 20 people visit the center each day to see the trains. She believes that number will increase now that the train display is listed on the map.

“The train garden is open to the community,” she said. “You don’t have to be a member to see the trains.”

Though not on the map, Symphony of Lights, a Howard County favorite for 25 years, is now open at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia through Jan. 2. Designed as a drive-thru attraction, people can also walk through it for special events, such as Tail Lights, held on Dec. 8, when participants were allowed to walk through with their dogs. Another walk-through event is scheduled 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31.

“Attendance at our walk-throughs have been greater than ever,” Karla Canamaso said in an email. She said drive-thru numbers have steadied since last year, when some visitors waited in line for up to two hours “because we were one of the only pandemic-safe activities around.”

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