The Symphony of Lights exhibit in Columbia appears to be going great guns a month after its premiere.
On a recent Saturday, 1,700 cars were clocked visiting the light show off Broken Land Parkway at Symphony Woods. Organizers had to line up cars three abreast to alleviate traffic clogging the entrance. This is good news, since the show's proceeds benefit maternal child health programs at Howard County General Hospital.
For those who haven't caught a glimpse of Symphony of Lights, the exhibit runs through New Year's. Columbia's downtown park was chosen because of its extended road network, which allows cars to tour acres of rolling hills and woods.
There are some spectacular moments in the show, which includes animated and stationary light displays. Young children especially should be captivated by the floating swans, gingerbread houses and cannon-firing toy soldiers. There are elements of Disney World's Parade of Lights, although don't expect to see Mickey Mouse prancing about with his uniform ablaze in white watts. The Symphony of Lights is more staid than that, but it is an eye-popper nonetheless.
Howard County General Hospital has committed to running the exhibit for three years. If the run is extended beyond that, this might even become a family tradition, the way parents used to take their kids to see the department store windows downtown -- when there were department stores downtown. Along with the hospital, this event is sponsored by WBFF-TV, The Mall in Columbia, Baltimore Gas and Electric, the Rouse Co. and The Baltimore Sun.
The show has the added benefit of highlighting the park, which abuts Merriweather Post Pavilion. Used infrequently by county residents, Symphony Woods has great promise as a downtown hub and gathering place. The Columbia Association, which manages the city's parks and recreational areas, is looking at tTC ways of tapping this potential without ruining the site. Events such as the Symphony of Lights and the annual Wine in the Woods festival are good ways of achieving the association's goal, in part because these short-term events do little to disturb the environment.
Other possibilities include installing a series of fountains or a sound system to pipe in music. More details are expected next year, but events similar to the captivating Symphony of Lights put the association's park vision on the right track.