The Legendary Lights at the Historic Clifton Mill drapes their scenic features — cliffs, gorges, a covered bridge — in four million brilliant lights. CONTRIBUTED

What makes the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill different from the rest

The historic Clifton mill, built in 1802 and still working, opened its Legendary Lights on Friday, Nov. 23. Here’s what you need to know about the Legendary Lights:

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Four million lights come on in unison

Unlike other lighting festivals where the lights are already on when you arrive, Clifton Mill stages a dramatic opening where people who arrive at 6 p.m. get to see all four million lights turn on at once, producing a Fourth of July-like “ooh and aah” moment. Throughout the evening, either on the hour or every half hour, the lights will be turned off and then turned on again so the later-comers can experience it as well.

The lights themselves cover Clifton Mill’s scenic attributes, including the mill, a covered bridge, cliffs and riverbanks. There’s also a synchronized light show to the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas in Sarajevo.”

“It has a traditional, old-time feel to it,” said Anthony Satariano, Clifton Mill’s owner and operator. “It’s not very modern or high-tech, more historic and scenic. You can’t go into Wal-Mart and buy a 200-year-old covered bridge.”

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A toy collection for all generations

Clifton Mill’s toy collection consists of Christmas trees decorated according to different time periods – the 1950s thru ’80s are represented — with the appropriate toys of each era stacked underneath.

“Young people can’t identify with it as much because they’re the digital generation,” Satariano said. “But for someone like me who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, there’d be an old Sears and Roebuck catalog, G.I. Joe figures, Barbie dolls. Other people might come in say, ‘ There are my roller skates, and there’s my Easy-Bake Oven,’ and so on.”

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Despite sustaining massive damage from a recent storm, the holiday display at Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton, opened as scheduled on for its 30th season on Friday, Nov. 24. The Legendary Lights of Clifton, which features more than 3.5 million lights illuminating the mill, the gorge, the riverbanks, trees and bridges, is open 5 to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. FILE PHOTO
Photo: Contributing Writer

The Santa Claus Museum

The museum contains approximately 3,600 one-of-a-kind Santas, many of them donated by private parties.

“Someone might bring in a Santa that was part of their late grandmother’s estate,” Satariano said. “They didn’t want to throw it away, so they brought it to us. There are a lot of old Santas like that, with stories behind them. Some people will make Santa-oriented items and bring them to us, and that’s their personal connection to Clifton Mill. They can bring in their family and say, ‘There’s my piece.’ We don’t buy anything off the shelf for it.”

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The Clifton Mill Santa Claus Museum has over 3,000 Santa Clauses on display. Photo contributed by Clifton Mill.

Miniature Village

The miniature village recreates old-school Christmas department store window displays, complete with animated figures.

“For someone of my age, it’s reminiscent of our parents taking us to downtown Dayton,” Satariano said. “It’s funny to see the adults just staring. Not many other places create these emotional moments.”

Watch Santa at work

This is a rare occasion where children can see Santa but not interact with him. It’s more like watching a movie, only live. Families will watch Santa check his list, tinker with toys and then go up the chimney to load his sleigh.

Mike Abel of Beavercreek took this photo on Nov. 29 at the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill, in Clifton. Jan. 1 is the last day for the display this season. Mike says of the the lights at Clifton Mill, "It gets us into the holiday spirit and the lights are amazing better every year if that is possible."

Best time to go?

“If you live relatively close, I wouldn’t come on the weekend if you can help it,” Satariano said. “On the weekends, you’ll have long lines because there’s a lot to see and people take their time. Best to come during the week around when we open at 6 p.m., which I know is tough because people are just getting off work. You could come later, at around 8:30 when people are leaving, but then you’re on a time crunch to see everything because we start closing at 9 p.m.”


What: Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill

Where: 75 Water St., Clifton

When: 5-9:30 p.m. Nov. 23-Dec. 31. Lights go on at 6 p.m. Display closes at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Cost: $10, children 6 and younger are admitted free

More Info: 937-767-5501 |