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Guiding lights: page offers map to displays

This home on Reese Parkway is featured on the Christmas Lights of North Chautauqua Facebook page.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, it may be a little more difficult for people to get into the holiday spirit this year, given that a lot of people’s Christmas traditions are put on hold.

One tradition that Adam Dolce’s family, and many other families all over, partake in is still very much on the table, and in Chautauqua County, it’s gaining even more traction. “My family and I take rides frequently to go see lights and see displays,” Dolce said. “I know we aren’t alone. When we drive around town, it can be hit and miss. We have our favorites we always stop at but we miss out on some because we don’t know where to look.”

This yearly tradition gave Dolce and his family an inspiration: Why not make a Facebook group for people who enjoy the same thing? And right around Thanksgiving, that Facebook group became a reality.

Christmas Lights of North Chautauqua, which sits at 377 members, is a way to tie the whole community together, especially those who love to see their neighbors Christmas lights. And being a public group that anyone can join, it has increasingly gained traction over the last couple weeks.

“The feedback has been good,” Dolce said. “On top of the 300 members, there are many more of them who watch and see what we’re working on without following. Because it’s public anyone can go on and look at the group without having to join. We did this as a way to tap into the community.”

The keynote feature of the Facebook group is a map of the best decorated houses, that is tied to Google Maps, and is updated by Dolce, as well as members of the community. The map serves as an efficient and easy to follow guideline for those looking to see the most displays possible in the surrounding area.

“The map that’s there is simple,” Dolce said. “It’s just points that show routes we’ve taken, and it’s been filled out by other group members who go in and add new locations.”

The plots on the map mark either a single well-decorated home, or a neighborhood with several homes that are decked out in Christmas spirit and LEDs.

“If we were going to do a ride, I’d grab the map and use it as a tool to cruise and enjoy the season,” Dolce said.

Currently, most of the houses on the map are clustered around Dunkirk and Fredonia, but Dolce is hoping to expand that to include Silver Creek residents. And while the village of Westfield does something similar through their own Parks and Recreation department, the Facebook group has a link to the Westfield locations so Westfield citizens can be connected as well.

While the group is new to this year, it has already been welcomed with over 300 pairs of open arms, and it is something Dolce is hoping to turn into a tradition.

“It’s certainly a new endeavor, and we hope to keep this going every year,” Dolce said. “Hopefully every Thanksgiving we can dust off the map and make it an annual tradition.”

Though Dolce’s direct inspiration for the Facebook group wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic, helping spread a little joy in a year that has been so difficult for many is certainly something Dolce is hopeful for.

“Hopefully it shares holiday spirit with those having a hard time finding it,” Dolce said.

As of now, Dolce and his family are the ones responsible for the page, but he isn’t overwhelmed as of now. Being the executive director of the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County means he is a busy guy, and he is open to someone else stepping up to help if the opportunity is right.

“If we had other folks willing to take it a step further, I would definitely let them,” Dolce said.

Dolce’s favorite light location is “easily” the house located at the end of Reese Parkway in Fredonia, which serves as the banner photo for the Facebook group. Thanks to the group though, he’s certainly discovered some new favorites too.

“My new favorite is a toss up,” Dolce said. “There’s one on Park Avenue in Dunkirk I haven’t driven by yet, but pictures show that theirs is probably the best in the city of Dunkirk, and on Route 83, there’s another awesome house, and they’re related to the owners of the house on Reese.”

The Facebook group, Christmas Lights of North Chautauqua, is open to the public and is looking for all the new houses they can find. Dolce invites pictures of lights people find, or pictures of people’s own property to help contribute to the group.

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