MONONGAH, W.Va. (WBOY) — The Marion County town of Monongah is quickly growing its Christmas light collection, starting with just seven displays in 2015, but now has more than 60 lights scattered throughout the area.
Monongah Christmas Lights Fund president and founder Susan Sanders said the first seven lights were a gift from the neighboring town of White Hall after she expressed interest in starting a light display in her own town.
“Once it took off, the townspeople loved it, people started buying their own lights. It just turned out to be such a beautiful thing. And I think the biggest payoff of all of this is … the seniors in the city and the kids,” Sanders said. “That’s all this is, it’s not for recognition for any of us, it’s to give back to someone who needs happiness, because Lord knows there’s not a lot of happiness in the world today.”
Sanders has spent most of her life living in the town of Monongah, a town where many residents place a high value on tradition and faith in God. In particular, he hopes the children of Monongah will be inspired by seeing what only a few people have been able to build from the ground up and take on the annual tradition for themselves.
“This next generation is what’s going to replace all of us,” he said.
The annual light display isn’t just for decoration though. it also serves as a memorial to members of the Monongah community who have passed away. Banners are hung to remember them and many lights have hidden meanings or sentimental significance.
Because the Monongah Christmas Lights Fund is a relatively small group, one of the biggest hangups each year is finding people to help actually set up the lights, despite it being one of the most recognizable and widely enjoyed Christmas traditions in Monongah. This year, the lights took about three and a half days to fully set up, and bad weather prevented them from being set up earlier.
“I know people work, I respect that. I wish we could even get some high school boys to help out or direct traffic, no big deal,” Sanders said.
However, the group still finds new members like Sherri Moore who moved to Monongah when her mother got sick. Moore’s mother said she wanted to move to Monongah because of the stories she heard from her sister, Aunt Sherri, about how kind the community was, and she wanted to live in a place where the community would take care of its own.
Moore was part of a similar committee in her hometown and knew she wanted to help decorate Monongah as soon as she heard about the lights.
“When I saw the lights, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t know how, but I wanted to volunteer,” Moore said. “Everyone is wonderful, not just because of those Christmas lights. My mom is very sick and not a day goes by that someone on this committee doesn’t ask me how my mom is doing. I had people from this town I don’t even know send her flowers. That means more to me than anything else.”
I will say, I love being the mayor of Monongah because I really think Monongah is a great community. I think when it comes to the sense of community and family, I mean, it’s right here. When someone’s house burns down, the community is there willing to fill our town hall with donations. If anyone is looking for Thanksgiving dinner, we have a great food pantry. Monongah is a great town and I encourage everyone to come down and look at the lights.
Johnboy Palmer, Mayor of Monongah
I really enjoy doing this because I see the passion in people’s eyes when we are out here in the rain and snow. I really appreciate all the people who help out, even the people who aren’t here doing things in the background like making cookies and brownies, donating stuff, or just generally helping out. I just want to thank everyone for their passion for this city.
Josh Scritchfield, volunteer
If you would like to support the Monongah Christmas Lights fund, you can find their Facebook page here. Sanders encourages anyone in the area to check out the lights, which can be found throughout Monongah, and stop by the Dairy Kone.