MONONGAH, W.Va. (WBOY) – The city of Monongah in Marion County is rapidly expanding its collection of holiday lights, starting with just seven displays in 2015 but now has more than 60 lights scattered across 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 lights show in her own town.
“It just took off, townspeople loved it, people started buying their own lamps. It just turned out to be such a beautiful thing. And I think the biggest reward of all of that is … the older people in town and the kids,” Sanders said. “That’s what this is about, it’s not about acknowledging any of us, it’s about giving back to someone who needs happiness because God knows there isn’t much happiness in the world today.”
Sanders has lived most of her life in the city of Monongah, a city where many residents place great value on tradition and belief in God. In particular, she hopes the children of Monongah will be inspired as they see what only a handful of people have been able to build from the ground up and take on the annual tradition.
“This next generation will replace us all,” she said.
However, the annual light show is not just for decoration; It also serves as a memorial to deceased members of the Monongah community. Banners are hung to commemorate them, and many lights have hidden or sentimental meaning.
Because the Monongah Christmas Lights Fund is a relatively small group, one of the biggest problems each year is finding people to help with the actual putting up of the lights, even though this is one of Monongah’s best known and most widespread Christmas traditions. This year it took about three and a half days for the lights to be fully installed and poor weather prevented earlier installation.
“I know that people work, I respect that. I wish we could even get a few high school boys to help or direct traffic, nothing difficult,” Sanders said.
However, the group still finds new members like Sherri Moore, who moved to Monongah when her mother fell ill. Moore’s mother said she wanted to move to Monongah because she heard from her sister, Sherri’s aunt, how friendly the community was and wanted to live in a place where the community would take care of their own.
Moore was a member of a similar committee in her own hometown and knew as soon as she heard about the lights that she wanted to help decorate Monongah.
“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, and not just because of those Christmas lights. My mom is very, very ill and not a day goes by that someone on this committee doesn’t ask me how my mom is doing. People from this town that I don’t even know sent her flowers. That means more to me than anything.”
I will say I love being the Mayor of Monongah because I truly believe Monongah is a great community. I think when it comes to a sense of community and family, it’s right here. If someone’s house burns down, the community is immediately ready to fill our town hall with donations. If anyone is looking for a Thanksgiving dinner, we have a great pantry. Monongah is a great city and I encourage everyone to come down and see the lights.
Johnboy Palmer, Mayor of Monongah
I really like doing this because I see the passion in people’s eyes when we’re out here in the rain and snow. I really appreciate all the people who help, including the people who aren’t here doing things in the background like baking cookies and brownies, donating stuff, or just helping out. I just want to thank everyone for the passion they have 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 everyone in the area to check out the lights that can be found throughout Monongah and stop by the Dairy Kone.