'Symphony of Lights' show raised $60,000 Patronage declined, but event brought in 50% more money than previous year

March 02, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

Attendance at Howard County General Hospital's biggest annual fund-raiser -- the "Symphony of Lights" -- dropped last Christmas season for the second year in a row, but the light show raised more money than the previous year.

The latest version of the holiday show suffered an almost 25 percent drop in patronage even after promoting new attractions, according to figures released by organizers.

The hospital's final tally shows 25,164 vehicles visited the exhibit TTC this year, down from 33,635 vehicles last year and 43,410 vehicles the show's first year.

The show opened after Thanksgiving and ran through Jan. 5.

The 42-night light show in Columbia is intended to raise money for the hospital's maternal and child health services.

Debbie Daskaloff, who runs the Symphony of Lights for the hospital, said the light show raised about $60,000 -- or about 50 percent more than had been reported the year before.

Daskaloff attributed the increase in net proceeds lower expenses for snow removal and investing less money in new displays and holiday music cassettes.

She would not discuss how much of the revenues came from corporate contributions vs. admissions to the light show, other than say: "There were 37 sponsors who gave in-kind donations and cash contributions. We've been very fortunate to have maintained our sponsors."

In the past, hospital organizers have said the nighttime display of tens of thousands of lights raised about $99,000 its first year and $38,000 its second.

The light show itself likely lost money its second year, with all profits coming from contributors.

In January of last year, Daskaloff told The Sun that 15 percent of the show's total revenue came from cash contributions.

That would total more than $60,000 -- accounting for more than the show's net proceeds of $38,000 that year.

Hospital spokesman John Walker has disputed the accuracy of the 15 percent ratio of cash contributions to revenue for the show's second year, but he has refused to provide another figure for the show's cash contributions.

Daskaloff blamed the continued falloff in attendance on bad weather and increased competition from other light shows as far away as Montgomery County and Ocean City.

"We were very pleased with the results of this year's light show," she said. "Even with very wet weekends in the beginning and more competition from other shows, we were quite pleased with the bottom line."

For the next holiday show, organizers may exchange displays with other shows to add variety to the 1.5-mile, drive-through holiday light show in Symphony Woods, Daskaloff said.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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