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Uptown transformed by dazzling lights

<p>Oxford&#x27;s lights are one of the holiday traditions we will be able to count on this season,</p>

Oxford's lights are one of the holiday traditions we will be able to count on this season,

Behind the Oxford Community Arts Center (OCAC), there’s a transformation waiting to take place. As soon as the sun sets, what was once a quiet garden becomes illuminated with winter lights and local artwork.

The display is part of Oxford Night Lights, which began Nov. 28 and will run until Jan. 17. 

Kim Daggy, Enjoy Oxford’s executive director, said there will be new installations community members can look forward to up until the display closes. 

“The outdoor installations can be experienced day or night, in person or by viewing the lights as you drive by,” Daggy said. 

Those who find themselves in Oxford can expect to see lights filling the trees, black light murals in Uptown Park and motion-activated light orbs and murals at the OCAC. 

Alyse Cappacio, one of the contributing artists, created the motion-activated orbs and helped organize much of the event. Although Cappacio lives in Cincinnati now, she lived in Oxford for about 10 years. Since the display was put up, she’s been back a few times to install new lights.

“Last time, I grabbed a DORA hot chocolate from Kofenya and I walked around Uptown, and it was just really nice,” Carpaccio said. “I mean, the lights in the trees lining High Street have always been kind of a magical part of winter in Oxford, and it's just really cool to see even more.”

But while the lights might attract community members to Uptown, Jessica Greene, assistant city manager, hopes the display will encourage attendees to stay and visit uptown businesses. 

“Our concept was to use art as an economic sustainability tool to engage people in our local economy through studying a beautiful scene,” Greene said.

Oxford’s city council voted to reinstate Oxford’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) during Miami University’s winter break. The DORA allows community members to buy and drink alcohol in open containers from participating vendors. 

With the DORA in effect, businesses and bars can sell specialty alcoholic beverages to attendees to bring with them to different displays around town. 

In an effort to help get attendees into businesses, Enjoy Oxford, which helped organize the display, created the #OxfordNightLights Passport. When attendees use the passport at participating businesses, they receive a sticker. Once they have at least three stickers, the passport can be turned in to Enjoy Oxford for a chance to win a prize. 

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The passport can be picked up at Enjoy Oxford, the OCAC or printed at home

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining, the city of Oxford has made an effort to make socially distant outdoor dining and seating more available. On Dec. 22, the city installed plastic igloos in Uptown Park. 

Inside the igloos are benches and a table so residents can eat outdoors without being exposed directly to the cold weather. Each igloo has a hand sanitizer station and a window and door to help with ventilation. 

“It's really great to have something to do and somewhere to go that's kind of safe and distanced and outside and also that’s festive because the holidays are different this year with COVID,” Carpaccio said. 

In a typical year, Greene said Oxford usually does a large winter event with thousands coming to Oxford over the course of one night or a weekend. 

“Instead of doing like one big holiday event,” Greene said, “we will try to set the theme of just (to) make the town beautiful and work with our partners to make something that you can participate with at any time on any day with your friends or family and still support the Oxford economy.”

Greene said Oxford might keep some elements of the display for when it's safe to gather again and create more programming for community members to engage in. But ultimately, she’d like to see the original event come back to Oxford. 

“I think we'll probably go back to our big holiday festival with the one big event,” Greene said, “because there's something special about gathering large groups of people, like there's such a sense of community with that.”

Carpaccio said her favorite part about working on the project was getting to see how many people were interested in contributing. 

“The people in Oxford were really happy and excited to contribute to the display,” Carpaccio said. “I was hired to coordinate it, but it was really kind of made by the community.”