Holiday light show organizers to meet Planners seek ideas to improve attendance

March 13, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

More than 30 organizers from at least 10 holiday light shows in Maryland, Virginia, Texas and Pennsylvania will meet next week to discuss ways of increasing attendance at their shows.

Debbie Daskaloff, who runs the "Symphony of Lights" show sponsored by Howard County General Hospital, said she hopes to "network with other light show organizers" at the meeting March 20 at Oregon Ridge Park in Baltimore County.

"There may be ideas we can exchange that will be helpful to all of us -- whether it's how to get a discount on light bulbs or store the equipment or logistics of moving it," she said.

Attendance at the "Symphony of Lights" dropped last Christmas season for the second consecutive year, but the light show raised more money than the previous year. The show's revenues include both ticket fees and cash contributions from corporate sponsors.

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

Organizers from light shows throughout the Baltimore area have said that increasing competition from so many similar shows has made it tough for them to make a profit.

Baltimore County's "Fantasy of Lights" at Fort Howard Park, which is in its second year, sustained a net loss of $7,300. The number of vehicles going through the Baltimore County show dropped 40 percent this year, according to preliminary reports.

"We hope to get together everyone in the area who's running a light show to share ideas and learn from each other," said Robin Iannucci, who organized the meeting and runs the Baltimore County light show. "We want to have a round table to talk about what works and what doesn't work in this business."

The two other light shows in the area -- Baltimore's "Zoo Lights" and Anne Arundel County's "Lights on the Bay" -- made modest gains.

"Symphony of Lights," Howard County General's largest annual fund-raiser, runs for 42 nights and is intended to raise money for maternal and child health services.

Daskaloff said that, despite the drop in attendance, the light show raised about $60,000 this year -- or about 50 percent more than the year before. She attributed the gain partly to lower expenses for such things as snow removal.

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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