Holiday display of light goes up Fort Howard Park adorned with exhibits for drive-by viewing

November 13, 1995|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,SUN STAFF

Workmen are putting in the last bulbs for the Fantasy of Lights, an animated display that will brighten the sky over Fort Howard Park beginning the night after Thanksgiving and continuing for 50 more nights through the holiday season.

The spectacle, sponsored by the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, will include 14 large-scale exhibits and more than 90 smaller ones along a 25-minute drive-through at the county park, located at the end of North Point Road in Edgemere-Sparrows Point.

"We've undertaken this project to provide wholesome entertainment for the family," said John Weber, recreation and parks director. "It will also raise money for more recreational ventures," he said.

The display was purchased from a Stevensville company, Thomas Brady & Associated Artists, for $250,000.

"We expect to break even within three years on the cost of the project," 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 with profits from county recreational facilities.

Visitors will be charged $8 for cars and $10 for vans to drive the winding roads of the 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. Weber 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.

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