A warming Symphony of Lights A multicolor drive: Howard County General Hospital brings back a 1.4-mile route of festive ,,light sculptures, generating holiday cheer and raising funds for hospital programs.

November 26, 1995|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Howard County General Hospital is radiating more than a million watts of holiday cheer for the next 43 evenings.

Symphony of Lights, in its second year, is a multicolor, incandescent 1.4-mile drive that snakes around Merriweather Post Pavilion's parking lot and through Symphony Woods in Columbia. The 25-minute route passes among scores of animated and static light bulb sculptures -- some more than 25 feet tall.

Motorists pay $12 per vehicle for the trip, helping to raise money for the hospital's maternal-child health services and programs, which include the labor and delivery unit, postpartum area, newborn and special care nurseries.

Last year's effort drew 43,410 vehicles with more than 200,000 visitors and raised $100,000 for the hospital services.

Organizers have fine-tuned some parts of the event for its second year. Changes include an extra week, six additional major light sculptures, five emergency stops along the route and hours that may prove more amenable to patrons.

"Everyone wanted more displays, so we added more displays," said Debbie Daskaloff, project director of Symphony of Lights.

Commuters on Broken Land Parkway may remember last year's rush-hour backups of cars entering the exhibit. This year, there will be a second exit on Broken Land Parkway, but "when it gets really busy, there's nothing we can do," Ms. Daskaloff said.

She suggests avoiding the peak times: 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and the days between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Organizers also have added a cassette of holiday tunes for $1 that can be popped in the tape deck to get passengers into the proper spirit during the tour.

Another addition is a gift shop at the end of the route that has mugs, teddy bears, sweat shirts and nightgowns that say "Let it glow, Let it glow, Let it glow." A vendor is selling Christmas trees and wreaths.

The lighted route is a compilation of traditional Christmas images mixed with offbeat derivatives: Christmas trees and wreaths; a gift-bearing tyrannosaur in sunglasses and Santa cap; a rocking horse; and two elves playing tennis.

The more striking displays are animated and straddle the route: a polar bear chipping a golf ball; a series of deer leaping; and toy soldiers firing cannon balls.

"It's wonderful," said Marion Miller of Aberdeen, who went through the route twice last year. "And I like the additions. I like the idea of a gift shop."

Two North Carolina businesses -- Mosca Designs of Raleigh and Carpenter Decorating of Hickory -- created, built and laid out the displays. The hospital added a year to its lease with Mosca Design and will own all of the displays in 1997.

B&J Electrical of Reisterstown needed seven weeks to power up the displays for last Monday's opening night.

"I'm sure it's well over 20 miles of wiring," Ms. Daskaloff said.

Howard County General Hospital will offer Symphony of Lights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 14. The exhibit will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily from Dec. 15 through Jan. 7. Admission is $12 for cars, trucks and vans; $50 for vehicles that can exceed 20 passengers. Information: 740-7666.

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