Electrifies Holiday Night With Christmas in the Park
For years, “Doc” Hicks, Paducah’s own country gentleman and perennial purveyor of a luminous light display each holiday, electrified the winter nights leading up to the arrival of the new year.
After his death, Paducah Power System (PPS) assumed the electrifying responsibility of the luminous light show and brought it from the country to the city. Since then, the city’s provider of electrical power has created a winking, blinking, flashing light show that is offered to a viewing of more than 20,000 people each year at no charge. “I think I can accurately say we’re probably the only light show of this magnitude in the country that is free to the viewing public,” said Brent Shelton, the project coordinator. “All we ask is that everyone consider a monetary donation or the contribution of a non-perishable canned good.” The money and canned goods are distributed equally to the Salvation Army, Family Services and Paducah Cooperative Ministries. Each year, PPS employees and community volunteers man the donation centers each evening. Last year, generous visitors provided more than 26,000 canned goods to stock the pantries of these three local support organizations.
“We store this massive accumulation of food in our warehouse and distribute the requested food supplies to the agencies as they need them, generally through March of each year,” said David Clark, general manager.
From its meager beginnings of home-crafted displays from both Mr. Hicks and Jimmy Kinsey, Paducah Power has boosted the wattage at Noble Park to include new attractions each year. In 2001, PPS installed a massive underground electrical system in the park and purchased the lighting display that was once seen in Metropolis, Illinois.
Seeking each year to enhance the light-filled experience, Paducah Power has, in some years, traded displays with other cities around the country. “This keeps the displays fresh and allows our community, as well as others, to make changes without having to make huge invest- ments. Some of the set-ups are very expensive,” Brent explained. Paducah Power is supported by two current corporate sponsors, USEC and Lourdes Hospital. “They purchase the displays and we store, maintain and install them each year,” commented David Clark.
Funds raised over the past five years have ranged from more than $17,000 in 1997 to more than $23,000 last year. Attendance, too, has grown each year from around 12,000 in 1997 to more than 30,000 vehicles in 2001. Since its inception, the display has provided more than $119,000 to the three local charities.
“This is just a small way we can return something to the community we serve,” said David. Paducah Power System, the city’s municipally owned electric distribution utility, was formed in 1961, taking over from Kentucky Utilities (KU). In a November election held in 1960, city residents voted overwhelmingly to purchase the electrical generating plant from KU for $5.8 million.
Today, PPS serves approximately two thirds of all the residents within McCracken County including the city of Paducah. The service area covers 47 square miles with 22,500 residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Former governor Jullian Carroll once remarked, “The inauguration of Paducah Power System has contributed substantially to the economic growth and progress of the city of Paducah. Paducah Power has always enjoyed strong leadership from the citizens of the community which has allowed it to maintain a close relationship between the people serving and the people served.”
Comprehensive information about Paducah Power System can be accessed at its website at www.paducah-power.com. The site includes information on billing and payments, requests for service, energy saving programs and tips, special services, as well as employment opportunities.
Christmas in the Park begins this year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and is available for viewing through January 1. Hours of operation are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.