Iconic lights to illuminate park on Thursday

The Committee to Light Mason Park has worked for 24 years to continue a tradition that’s dear to residents of Laurel and Jones County and families from all around who make the annual trek here. The tradition will open with a celebration, including a Leadership of Jones County team Goal Diggers, food vendors and more from 5:30-8 p.m. on Thursday.

Getting the lights up at Mason Park is a huge group effort, said Christina Rulo, a team member of Leadership of Jones County to assist the Committee to Light Mason Park with accomplishing its goal.

“I’m not even from here, but I understand this is huge for all of the kids and even the adults,” Rulo said. “It’s a  throwback to yesteryear.”

The team consists of Casey Adams with Community Bank; Joe Cole with Mississippi Power; Tamia Taylor with Laurel High; Summer Holbrook with Sanderson Farms; Rulo with PG Technologies; and Anna Claire Burge with First State Bank.

What most people do not realize is that the tradition is not spearheaded by the city but a group of volunteers, said Amanda Mathews, coordinator of the Committee to Light Mason Park.

“The biggest thing is volunteer support and being willing to help us no matter what that looks like,” Mathews said. “People of all ages can help us.”

For Mathews, it’s important to keep the tradition going because there are some children in the community who have never seen a big holiday light display. Last year, the park had the fewest lights on display in history because of the need for volunteers and repairs to the lights, Mathews said.

“We have quite a few lights that need repairs,” Mathews said. “One of the favorite lights is the rocket, but it is not in working condition. One of our goals is to get the rocket up this year.”

Having people who would be willing to repair the lights would be a great way community members could help reach this goal, she said.

“Leadership has been an integral part of getting connections,” Mathews said. “We had not been previously connected with Jones College, but their lineman crew came and put everything in the trees, and their electric college came and tested and sorted the lights.”

Jones College, Mississippi Power and Laurel High School students have all contributed to getting the light displays up throughout the park

At the park Jones College electrical instructor Greg Griffith helped put up the bears-and-balls light display, figuring out the sequencing for the light’s timing. Griffith said he remembers bringing his children to view the lights and thought it would be a great project.

“I’d like to do anything I can to keep it going,” Griffith said. “We brought an electrical class last week to help them sort through what was working and what wasn’t.”

Along with hanging and repairing the lights, Leadership Jones County hopes to create a permanent storage place for the Mason Park lights, Rulo said.

“We wanted to do some- thing for the community and there is another group that is working to restore the amphitheater,” Rulo said. “Our goal is to make it to where we can store the lights here at Mason Park instead of having them offsite and transport them. It’s all done by volunteers.”

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