Nela Park's Holiday Displays Will Be Open To Cars For the First Time Since 1958

Nov 24, 2017

As it has since the 1920s, GE Lighting's Nela Park in East Cleveland will be decked out with half-a-million lights starting Dec.1. Cars can drive through to see holiday displays on Dec. 8, 15 and 22 from 6-9 p.m. It's the first time the campus will be open to cars since 1958.
Credit GENERAL ELECTRIC

A Northeast Ohio holiday tradition is being revived after 59 years, and it could bring thousands of cars to East Cleveland.

GE Lighting’s Nela Park will officially unveil its holiday-light display next Friday, just as it has since the 1920s. For the three Fridays after that, visitors will also be able to drive through  Nela Park for even more holiday displays – something that hasn’t been done since 1958.

'I picked out different things that I thought would be memorable from the 1920s, 30s, 40s.'

Debbie George designs Nela Park’s holiday displays, and says this year she wanted to acknowledge that history.

“We have wonderful archives with photos and drawings and mechanical drawings. And I picked out different things that I thought would be memorable from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s and so forth.”

The drive-through displays were stopped mainly due to traffic flow in the area, when, on Christmas Eve alone, as many as 9,000 cars would come down Noble Road and into the sprawling campus.

George says the biggest change in her 15 years at Nela Park was the switch to LEDs, since they’re more durable and consume 80 percent less energy.

“We’ve able to use more lights in certain areas where we couldn’t because of the watts and amps – the draw that it was causing. We don’t have to worry about that in the least now: we can put 24 strings end-to-end; years ago you could only put three end-to-end. The lights have gotten brighter and more vibrant. They have a haze – a glow, almost – instead of being just little multi-colored lights that you used to have.”

This year’s holiday lights will be open to cars on Dec. 8, 15 and 22. The standard holiday display – which is visible from Noble Road – will be lit on Dec. 1.

George says she’s already planning next year’s displays, even as GE announced a possible divestiture of its lighting division in June. The company says the future of the displays would be up to a potential buyer, and it’s still very early in the process to make any decisions.

A video history of Nela Park’s holiday displays is below: