CLIFTON — The Christmas season will officially light up 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24 as Clifton Mill officials pull the switch and turn on more than 3 million bulbs set to illuminate the holidays.
The mill was purchased by its current (and sixth) owners in 1987. Anthony Satariano described his father as a big fan of holidays, but Christmas in particular. When he retired, he looked forward to running the existent gift and snack shop out of the mill. However, the same year they purchased the property, the Satatiano’s displayed 100,000 bulbs through the Christmas season.
The family has expanded the display, either subtly or in a large manner, each year since.
“We bought the mill, we were here one night and my father said ‘lets put some Christmas lights on this.’” Sarariano said. “We own this beautiful piece of property, let’s decorate it.’”
Satariano, along with five other individuals, hang the lights themselves beginning in September. The lights are completed by November.
“What I enjoy is now getting young families who walk up and say ‘when I was a kid, my mom and dad brought me, now we’re bringing our children’ — I’m seeing second and third generations — that’s how long I’ve been doing this,” Satariano said. “It reinforces in my mind that somewhere out there, Clifton Mill is in someone’s family scrapbook. [It’s] their holiday tradition.”
The old covered bridge is offered in addition to the the legendary lights. The bridge itself, along with the windows, roof, sides and bottom are covered in lights of various shades as well as pseudo trees which flank the bridge.
Traditional Christmas songs and some of the lights on the covered bridge begin to twinkle on and then off again in synch with each other. As the music builds and builds, more and more lights on the covered bridge blink on and off in time to the music. By the end of the song, the music is booming through Clifton Gorge. As the music ends, the bridge lights all go out, leaving guests in total darkness every hour on the hour. But before most spectators can catch their breath, the lights come on again all at once.
Clifton Mill also displays an outdoor miniature village and Santa Claus museum throughout the season. The miniature village has recreations of many of Clifton’s historic buildings plus a 1950s diner, a light parade going down the main street and two trains that go around the village and across a covered bridge on the mill race stream. On the outskirts of the village there is a drive-in movie theatre that shows old film clips, a frozen pond with ice skaters, a football game in progress and a country fair with moving bumper cars and Ferris wheel.
The following year after the Satariano’s purchased the mill, the resturant took off. It serves up breakfast food daily regardless of the hour of the day. But it’s most known for its 12-inch pancakes that are large enough to cover an entire dinner plate. The recipes are family-owned, or came with the mill itself.
However, when the lights are on, the resturant scales back and offers concession-style food, including soup, hotdogs and cocoa. The restaurant and gift Shop are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 25 through Dec. 31 and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will be closed Christmas and New Years.
The light display starts the day after Thanksgiving and is on every night through Sunday, Dec. 31. Gates open every day at 5 p.m., the lights come on at 6 p.m. and gates close at 9 p.m. The lights go off about 30 minutes after the gates close. On Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve the location closes at 8 pm. Clifton Mill is located at 75 Water St.
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.