50 Nights Of Holiday Lights

September 12, 1995|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

Thousands of glittering lights will brighten the sky over Fort Howard Park in the holiday season, with an animated display beginning the night after Thanksgiving and continuing for 50 nights in a spectacle planned by Baltimore County.

The multicolored Fantasy of Lights, announced last week, will include 14 large-scale exhibits and more than 90 smaller ones, along a 25-minute drive-through at the county park, which is at the end of North Point Road in Edgemere-Sparrows Point.

"This exciting new project will enhance the quality of life in the community," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said of the display, which was purchased from a Stevensville company, Thomas Brady & Associated Artists, for $250,000.

"We think this will be a great holiday attraction for families," said Howard Gaskill, capital projects manager for the sponsoring Department of Recreation and Parks. "It also will raise money for more recreational ventures."

"We expect to break even within three years," said Vicki Manning, program coordinator for the department. Ms. Manning said the county expects about 20,000 cars and vans the first year and double that the next year as word gets out.

Businesses will be solicited for sponsorships. In return, they will be advertised in all promotional literature.

The money for the display is from a department enterprise fund set up this summer with profits from county recreational facilities.

Visitors will be charged $8 for cars and $10 for vans to drive the winding roads of Fort Howard Park and view displays as tall as 30 feet, 20 lighted reindeer 8 1/2 feet high, three huge light-covered arches, toy soldiers, a castle and a paddle-wheel steamer.

The display will include a Santaland and a Candyland Express train, among other attractions.

Visitors will be asked to tune to an FM radio frequency that will provide music and commentary on the show.

The display will be open nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. except Fridays and Saturdays, when the hours will be 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"These shows have been wildly successful everywhere they've been tried," Mr. Gaskill said. "With budgets tightening, recreation departments have to generate their own money as a way to support their programs. There are a lot of programs we can't charge the public for, and this is one way we can continue them and expand."

Ocean City also has a holiday light show, and the Baltimore Zoo has a walk-through display during the holiday season.

Howard County will hold its second Symphony of Lights, sponsored by Howard County General Hospital, from Nov. 20 through Jan. 7 in Columbia.

A hospital spokeswoman said the show drew 43,400 cars last year.

Other successful large-scale shows are in Newport News, Va., Ann Arbor, Mich., Oglebay, W.Va., and Tanglewood, N.J.

"The Baltimore County display will be among the largest," said Thomas Brady, whose company specializes in commercial lighting. "These light shows have become a tradition for families during the holiday season and have become very popular in the last few years."

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