A labor of love: What it takes to create the Clifton Mill light display

Christmas lights at Clifton Mill
Meteorologist Tara Hastings
Christmas lights at Clifton Mill Meteorologist Tara Hastings

CLIFTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Seeing the lights at Clifton Mill has been a Christmas tradition for many families in the Miami Valley for the last 29 years. It takes time, patience and hard work to put up the lights and all of the displays.

What started out as just a few hundred thousand lights in the late 80s has now grown to more than 3 point 5 million. It’s a family effort that works through the cold, the wind and the rain all to make sure everyone who comes through has a memorable experience.

The autumn sun shines off the water at Clifton Mill just outside yellow springs, but by sunset strands of lights illuminate the gorge, the mill and the eyes of many.

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“Once my father and I purchased the place he said we own it let’s decorate it just like our home. We started doing it just for ourselves but then people started coming in and parking,” says Anthony Satariano, Owner Clifton Mill.

A family who always loved decorating for Christmas works all year long to make sure they’re ready when it’s time to flip the switch. During summer new displays are built but now it’s crunch time. Crews are putting up the finishing touches. All from memory. There’s no master plan meaning things may be slightly different from year to year.

The work can be difficult especially when there’s a chill in the air.

“You can only do so much with gloves and mittens some of the fine details you have to have your fingers it’s very tough when they get stiff and cold,” Satariano said.

“Labor of love. It’s just a labor of love for all of us,” says Jessica Nose General Manager.

General Manager Jessica Nose has been working here since high school. She’s seen the effect the lights bring to so many families.

“I think part of it is just seeing what joy it brings to families. You may be going through a horrible time you can see it on their face or you can see them as they come in. Just how happy they are when they leave,” Nose explained.

But it’s not just the lights it’s the intricate displays. The miniature village showcases a farm a drive in and even movies like A Christmas Story. All of them are built to withstand the elements.

“This is roof shingle, there’s a heavy duty bicycle chain and aluminum framing,” Satariano explained.

A large effort this mill family is willing to make in order for other families to have a bright holiday season.

The switch will be flipped this Friday November 25th at 6 p.m. The lights will be on every night until December 31st.

For directions or hours you can visit the Clifton Mill website by clicking here.

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