Overly's Country Christmas
In Westmoreland County
by Karen Fetter
Overly's Country Christmas Fun
As the holiday season approaches, many Westmoreland County residents
have made visiting the Overly’s Country Christmas display a tradition.
Located at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds in Norvelt, this mesmerizing
holiday light display of 2.4 million twinkling lights is unlike any other.
Not only can cars drive through the meticulous and animated light display,
but sightseers can also walk through the many attractions that make Overly’s
Country Christmas so special.
The Special Overly Experience
The holiday experience begins with the drive-through tour of the light
display. The donation fee per vehicle is $10.00 Monday through Thursday and
$12.00 Friday through Sunday. There is an additional fee for limousines,
extended passenger van or minibuses.
Next, visitors can park and then enter into the village area. No one
should miss the extensive model train display or treats of hot chocolate or
funnel cake. You can even buy marshmallows and sticks and head over to the
bonfire for roasting and caroling. Children can ride a mini train or the
entire family can hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage that travels throughout
the village. Santa is even on location before Christmas to pose for photos
Now, if shopping is what you desire then do not hesitate to visit the C.
Edgar & Sons General Store for gifts and memorabilia. Many of these
attractions are enclosed in old-time wooden structures to simulate a
village. Visitors truly feel like they are experiencing a winter
wonderland! And the best part is that all donations from each vehicle
support charity, a goal that creator Harry Overly wanted to carry on beyond
his own capabilities.
How Did It All Start?
Harry originally started the light display over 50 years ago at his home
in Armburst simply to entertain his own four children. Suddenly, people
began to drive by to see the extensive display. Harry decided to expand the
display onto his 7-acre property. Even with more lights he did not stop his
attention to detail. Now it wasn’t just neighbors, but people from coming
from all over the region. At this point people started to help Harry and
volunteer to play Santa, Mrs. Claus, and elves. They passed out lollipops to
those driving by. Then one woman’s act of generosity shifted the focus of
the light display. She handed Harry a one-dollar bill and thanked him for
entertaining her children. He told her that there was no charge and she told
him to donate it to charity.
From that moment Harry decided that the money raised would be donated to
benefit children’s causes. During the 35 years of his house display he
donated nearly one million dollars to the Free Care Fund at Pittsburgh
Children's Hospital and children's medical services at Westmoreland Regional
Hospital in Greensburg.
After the 1983-84 seasons, Harry suffered a heart attack and was forced to
take a year off. The community felt lost without seeing the infamous light
display. So the next year, groups from schools, business, and friends and
neighbors all volunteered to make sure the display would go on. Today nearly
600 volunteers work to make the light display happen!
Then in 1991 he announced that a new and larger site would be needed so that
the display could grow and help more children. Idlewild Park hosted the
display for a transitional year until Overly’s Country Christmas found its
new home at the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds.
In 1994 the display was incorporated to ensure its continued success for
years to come. That success has come to fruition and is known not just by
local residents, but nationally as well. Overly’s Country Christmas has been
featured on "Good Morning America" and on other television programs and was
named one of America's Best Outdoor Light Displays by Good Housekeeping in
The True Meaning Behind It All
IIn addition to donating money to charities, Overly’s Country Christmas
also helps the community in other ways through programs such as “Family
Moments Programs” and “Share the Magic.” The Family Moments Program allows
families to experience Overly’s Country Christmas at no charge in order to
build family bonds and communication, a need that has become necessary to
fill for at-risk families in Westmoreland County as well as Somerset,
Allegheny, and Fayette counties. The Share the Magic program donates any
extra food products from the holiday season to local women’s and children’s
shelters, homeless shelters and food pantries. Overly’s Country Christmas
also collects donations of new, unwrapped toys, nonperishable food items and
pet food to help local nonprofit organizations.
Furthermore, Overly’s Country Christmas has worked with the Westmoreland
County Juvenile Probation Department since 1994. The troubled youths can
give back to the community and help to continue to provide holiday memories
and traditions to everyone who visits.
Although Harry has now passed away, his memory will continue to live on
through the Overly’s County Christmas light display each year and how it
reminds people what the holiday season really means.
Come And Make a Memory!
If you are thinking about visiting Overly’s Country Christmas display
this season you should consider the following tips to make your experience
as enjoyable as possible. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. so it is best to
arrive early and plan on spending about 1 to 1.5 hours. Follow Overly’s
Country Christmas on Twitter or on Facebook for announcements of any changes
in closing times if the weather is inclement. The busiest time to visit the
display is on weekends in December, specifically Saturday nights. Wait times
can be as long as an hour. Also, be aware that the line is weaved through
the fairgrounds so the course may be muddy. And lastly, dress warm so you
can enjoy the outdoor village after you see the light display.
The 2012-13 display will begin on November 16. Hours include Sunday
through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to
11:00 p.m.; 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New
Be sure to make this holiday season complete by visiting Overly’s Country
Christmas light display! For further information, visit www.overlys.com,
follow on Twitter or Facebook, or call 724-423-1400.
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