Attendance figures brighter for Symphony of Lights New displays, weather help holiday show

December 19, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

With new light displays and milder weather, attendance at Howard County General Hospital's annual holiday light show has increased from last year's disappointing turnout.

By the show's 22nd night, at the beginning of this week, 10,399 vehicles had visited the Symphony of Lights exhibit, up from 8,253 by the 22nd night last year.

The 917 vehicles that drove through the show on its first night, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was almost double the 473 recorded last year.

As attendance declined in the two previous shows amid increasing competition from similar seasonal light shows in the Baltimore area, organizers took steps to liven up this year's show.

A trade was made with a light show in Richmond, Va., to bring in about a half-dozen exhibits of teddy bears throwing snowballs and riding a snowmobile.

"We rearranged some things and added some new ones just by trading with another show, and that helped to bring folks something they hadn't seen before," said Debbie Daskaloff, the show's organizer. "The novelty wears off a bit after the first year, and we needed something different."

Through corporate sponsors, organizers have raised $200,000 for the hospital's maternal-child health services unit, which is to open in the spring.

Organizers bought the show, which is in its fourth year, in 1994 from Mosca Design in Raleigh, N.C. After this year, the organizers will own the displays for the 1.4-mile drive-through show.

To keep revenues up amid competition from similar shows in Prince George's, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, Symphony of Lights organizers opened this year's show with a 5-kilometer run. A money-losing souvenir shop was eliminated.

The show, which costs $12 per vehicle, runs until Jan. 4.

There is also a 2-minute virtual tour of the 35-display light show on America Online that takes visitors through color pictures of a 35-foot twinkling wreath, frolicking teddy bears, the Winter Wonderland for penguins, polar bears and snowflakes, and Candyland, where a gingerbread house is surrounded by candy canes and lollipops.

The show also includes Prehistoric Holidays, where towering dinosaurs stand near an 18-foot high erupting volcano, and Toyland's giant toy soldiers. Santa Claus waves hello from his reindeer-drawn sleigh as patrons leave.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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