Celebrate the Season helps those in need at Old Santee Canal Park

Santee Cooper is offering Lowcountry residents three distinct ways to enjoy the holiday season and help those in need – and at the same time display the power of renewable energy sources.

In its ninth year, Celebrate the Season is primed to pass the $1 million mark in donations to local charities. Berkeley Electric Cooperative is the event’s presenting sponsor, while other major sponsors include Berkeley County, Goodwill and Home Telecom.

The centerpiece of Celebrate the Season, the Holiday Lights Driving Tour, is slated to open for business Nov. 29 and will run through Dec. 30. The mile-long trail of brilliantly lit displays depicts everything from Santa and Mrs. Claus to dinosaurs, according to Santee Cooper Director of Public Relations Nicole Aiello.

The electricity for the displays will come from Santee Cooper’s Green Power – wind, solar and landfill gas.

Though a few new displays have been added recently, most of them remain from year to year.

“The Holiday Lights Driving Tour is a family tradition for many people, so we want to make sure they can come out and see their favorite displays,” Aiello points out.

The admission fee to the Holiday Lights Driving Tour is $5 per vehicle, whether you arrive in a sedan, an SUV or even a bus. The tour begins at Santee Cooper headquarters on Riverwood Drive, right beside Old Santee Canal Park, and continues into the park. Visitors will be permitted to take the driving tour multiple times on the day they purchase admission.

Nearly 2,000 people were expected to get a sneak preview of the Driving Tour Nov. 23 – navigating the two miles up and back on their own two feet. The Tinsel Trot, now in its seventh year, gives participants the opportunity to see the displays before the Driving Tour opens. If you missed it this year, keep an eye for it next year to get a sneak peak of the lights before they’re officially open to the public.

Because of their growth in recent years, the third leg of Celebrate the Season, the Holiday Fairs, are now held during three consecutive weekends at the Moncks Corner Regional Recreation Complex. The Fairs provide a family-friendly place to celebrate the holidays, with visits to and photos with Santa Claus, rides and other children’s activities, live entertainment, food, hot chocolate, and arts and crafts vendors.

Aiello points out that Celebrate the Season raised more than $880,000 for local charities during its first eight years. In 2019, the main recipient of the event’s success will be the Coastal Community Foundation’s Giving Back to Berkeley Fund, which was established in 2008 to improve the quality of life in Berkeley County by supporting local nonprofits.

“Celebrate The Season is important to the community because it makes lifelong memories,” Aiello says. “More importantly, it helps people in our community. It’s a really nice way to make memories for families and at the same time, help others in need.”

The Holiday Lights Driving Tour is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 29 through Dec. 30, and is closed Dec. 24 and Dec. 25. The Holiday Fairs will be held from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 6 through Dec. 8, Dec. 13 through Dec. 15 and Dec. 20 through Dec. 22. To learn more, visit www.celebratetheseason.org/.