Aglow for the season

Howard Co. hospital's Symphony of Lights gets visitors in holiday mood

November 16, 2006|By Kristin Gray | Kristin Gray,Sun Reporter

The Howard County General Hospital's annual Symphony of Lights captures the spirit of the wintry season with an exhibit featuring more than 70 stationary light fixtures.

The event, which starts Monday, is one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast. Past shows have drawn more than 80,000 visitors. The showcase benefits the hospital's maternal child services and provides a holiday diversion for children and adults.

"It's nice because I'm from the area, and I used to attend the Symphony of Lights when I was younger," said Sheila Mackall, Howard County General Hospital's communications manager. "It's really nice to be on the other side and help pull it together now."

Visitors can help jump-start the event with the Dazzle Dash on Sunday, a run/walk with up to 3,000 participating families. The Dazzle Dash also includes a DJ and plenty of dancing. It provides families and friends the opportunity to enjoy the holidays amid a wooded backdrop.

"It's a tradition, and it's unique in that everybody finds something new," said Jan Hines, the Howard Hospital Foundation's development director. "It's a great way to get yourself into that festive, holiday mood."

This year's event has mainstay crowd pleasers such as the Toy Box and Santa Claus displays. Oversized nursery rhyme showcases will captivate kids with favorites such as Mother Goose and other classic tales.

"It's always nice to see that larger-than-life aspect of presents and nursery rhymes in such a grand form," Mackall said. "Also, it's the ability to reminisce and think about childhood things you saw as a kid."

Now in its 12th year, the Symphony of Lights has raised more than $1 million for maternal-care programs. Last year's garnered $316,000. This year, planners hope to raise $325,000.

"The staff has worked really hard," said Hines, who is working with the Symphony of Lights for the first time. "Everyone is new, so there is a big learning curve, but it's a great team effort and wonderful cause."

The Symphony of Lights runs 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Monday- Jan. 7 at 5950 Symphony Woods Road in Columbia. Tickets are $15 for cars with up to 11 passengers, $25 for vehicles with 12-24 passengers and $100 for buses of 15 and more. The Dazzle Dash, which includes a 3-mile run, 1 1/2 -mile walk and 1 1/2 -mile kids walk, begins at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Symphony Woods. Registration is at 4 p.m. Call 410-740-7840 or go to

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