First Night Oneonta, a volunteer-run group that has brought the greater Oneonta community an alcohol-free family New Year's Eve celebration for many years is bringing back a special event to Oneonta's Neahwa Park this holiday season: Festival of Lights.  This was a hugely popular holiday attraction last year, created to bring the spirit of the holiday season to the community at large in a safe way during the COVID-19 crisis. My family and I enjoyed it three times last year since it was so fun.

First Night Oneonta is dedicating this holiday light event again this year to the late John Hayen and his family. John, a former long-time Oneonta resident and employee here at Townsquare Media Oneonta and dubbed as "Mr. Christmas", passed away last year and has always had one of the best holiday light displays in the Oneonta area which people would forward to enjoying every year. It's fitting that this holiday light show be held in his honor since he loved the holidays more than anyone I know! Below is a photo of John's holiday lights, decorating his property back in 2017.

This drive-thru holiday event will run daily from Dec. 18 through Jan. 1  from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm in Neahwa Park in Oneonta and feature a wide variety of lighted holiday displays created by community members and organizations. Anyone interested in creating a display for the Festival of Lights should register with First Night Oneonta through their website firstnightoneonta.com. Up to $2000 in prizes will be awarded for the best displays.

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Thanks to sponsorship from Five Star Subaru and Cleinman Performance Partners who are providing the prize money for this event.

There will be a couple of special evenings with live entertainment: on December 18 and December 31. Vehicles should enter Neahwa Park from the Main St. entrance and will exit on Market St.

Volunteers are needed to help in a variety of ways during the Oneonta Festival of Lights. There are two weekends where volunteers for setup are needed: Dec. 4 and 5, also Dec. 10 and 11. If interested please contact organizers through www.firstnightoneonta.com.

To find out more and stay updated on this event you can visit firstnightoneonta.com or the First Night Oneonta facebook page.

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The world-wide shipping delays have shoppers buying holiday gifts early this year and much of the commerce is happening online. After all, how can you avoid the amazing deals? Now more than ever, these amazing deals are shady transactions that look authentic and safe.

One way to shop safely online is to buy from local vendor websites, or visit sites like Etsy which touts small meaningful gifts, often times created by small businesses and crafters.

The Better Business Bureau recommends online buyers do research before they click the checkout button.

Here are 11 things you can do to avoid getting ripped off online, according to the Better Business Bureau.

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