• Benji Sills

Christmas Light Show at Skylands Stadium

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

With the holidays rapidly waning around us, Paige and I wanted to share a festive event before the inevitable gloom of January sets in. After an admittedly brief search for local holiday displays, we decided to take a drive an hour from my home in Newark up north to the town of Augusta, New Jersey. This town is host to one of New Jersey's most festive events - a mile long holiday lights drive-through. Enticed by the promise of adventure without having to stand up at all, we headed off.

The display is easy to spot - Augusta doesn't exactly read like a town that has much else going on, so you know you're near the display when one of the empty fields around you starts to shimmer slightly. We pulled into the Skylands Stadium lot, which has been transformed into a short queue, with stansions clearly marking the path for drivers. It took just a few minutes to get to the ticket booth and the process was smooth, although it should be noted that the display is $20 per vehicle and accepts cash only (they do have an area where you can pull over momentarily to use their ATM but to avoid being foolish like us and paying the hefty additional fees, we recommend bringing cash from home).

Paige and I have always found holiday lights to be charmingly tacky and this display is no different. They start with a mix of traditional Christmas motifs - large waving Santas and grinning snowmen - and whilst most of the lights are logical, Paige and I favored a select few that must have been found in the bargain bin. We tried to capture a few photographs, but as is always the case with holiday lights, they came out looking truly dismal. A particular stand-out showcased either a dancer dancing, as per the song, or an especially jolly crucifixion. There were also a number of displays so vague and low effort that they deserve a special mention, including one that was presumably a Hershey’s Kiss but was so formless that it also could very well have been an accident.

The occasional confusing display only serves to enhance the experience in our opinion - we drove merrily around blasting holiday tunes and having a genuinely good chuckle. The real bulk of the confusion came after the lights when we decided to stop by the stadium’s winter village to explore. Inside the village there are a number of slightly unconventional activities to try. For example, those tired of the overdone ice skating holiday trope can instead opt for a truly baffling alternative. Advertised as a “20’ x 40’ outdoor skating rink”, visitors can pay $20 for a half hour of slipping around on a greasy slab of linoleum. We stood watching families tumble over on the tile floor for a good portion of the evening, unable to accept this was a real event that real people had paid for.

Holiday shopping opportunities at the stadium are surprisingly sparse. Anyone with the lofty expectation that this lights show might have lights for sale is destined to be sorely disappointed. Instead there is a single pushy vendor pawning off “TRUMP WON, NO COLLUSION, GET OVER IT” t-shirts. It’s hard to imagine that a north Jersey holiday market is providing his target audience, although I suppose they need something on hand to wipe blood off the linoleum rink. Another honorable mention for most bizarre feature is the Jumbotron playing the live action Grinch film on mute. It is on the far end of the baseball field, little more than a thumbnail from the winter village, and can only be accessed via a paid tractor ride which drives over to the screen and then immediately back.

Although this true gem of holiday confusion is closing for the season, it has been a long-running establishment of the area. Keep your eyes open for next season as it will likely be running at the Skylands Stadium once again.

The event can be found throughout the holidays at the Skylands Stadium, located at 94 Championship Place, Augusta, NJ 07822.

Assuming everything stays the same for next year: admission is $20, cash only.

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