A few hundred thousand dancing lights can make an impression on a person. Just ask Larry Stottlemyer.
Stottlemyer, founder of New Market's Adventure Park USA, was visiting Knoxville, Tenn., with his wife when he first saw Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland. Installed within the confines of a family-owned RV park, the seasonal display left his mouth agape. He had to have one just like it.
"It just literally blew my socks off," says Stottlemyer, with understandable hyperbole. "I told my wife, 'We need this at Adventure Park. It would be awesome.'"
A few dozen phone calls and a lot of persuading later, Stottlemyer got his wish. Beginning Friday and running through Jan. 1, a traveling version of the Shadrack's Wonderland will be illuminating the season in New Market. Giant illuminated Christmas trees will seem to dance. Lights placed along the ground will make the entire 11/2-acre display seem to flow with illumination while the whole place throbs with enough candlepower to banish the darkness from a small city. Visitors can drive the mile-long trail and listen to Christmas music on their FM radios.
"You get Christmas trees, snowflakes, all kinds of designs, arches, and they all do different things," Stottlemyer promises. "It's just mesmerizing."
Designing the light show was both a labor of love and a challenge, says Mikki Glover-Hill, who runs Shadrack's with her father, Keith, and brother, Josh. It all began, she said, when they read people bragging in e-mails about their own holiday light displays.
"People were just doing it on their homes," said Glover-Hill, who's in charge of the logistical and creative aspects of the Shadrack's display. "We saw small things, and we dreamed really big."
That they did — to the point where they don't even know anymore how many bulbs go into the display.
"We quit counting," she said. "We know we haven't reached the million mark, but we have so many and add so many throughout the season that we just go with saying 'hundreds of thousands.'"
The setup seemed perfect for Adventure Park, the family amusement center Stottlemyer and his partners opened just off Interstate 70 in 2008 after outgrowing the miniature-golf operation they'd been running in nearby Frederick for 28 years. During the summer, visitors can enjoy the roller coaster and other outdoor amusements, but things slow down a bit when the weather turns chilly.
A huge light show like Shadrack's is sure to bring people in, Stottlemyer is convinced. He hopes to bring a taste of Vegas-style glitz to Maryland.
"There's light shows, but there's nothing like this," he said. "My son-in-law said it first: He said, 'It's just like mixing Bellagio with lights.' That is it. That tells exactly what it is."
Sure, there's a monetary reward for all the hard work. People flock to Shadrack's over the holidays, Glover-Hill said, and are charged by the car-, van- or bus-load (the same admission strategy that will be used in New Market). But the real reward, she insists, is in the joy of the season all those light bulbs help to spread.
"There's just something about the Christmas spirit," she said. "The Christmas spirit, no matter what you believe, is real. People get happy when they hear the Christmas music. It's really cool to create smiles on every face."
If you go
Adventure Park USA is located in New Market, about 40 miles northwest west of Baltimore off Interstate 70, at Exit 62. The address is 11113 West Baldwin Road.
Admission to Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland is $25 per carload; $50 for a mini-bus, van or limousine; $100 per bus. Other park attractions, many of which are inside and open for the season, are priced individually.
Hours are 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Information: 301-865-6800 or adventureparkusa.com
Overnight accommodations are available in Frederick, about 10 miles further west on I-70; chain hotels include Holiday Inn Express (hixfrederick.com, 301-695-2881), Best Western (bestwesternmaryland.com/hotels/best-western-historic-frederick, 301-695-6200) and Hampton Inn (hotelfd.com, 301-698-2500). For a full listing, try frederickhotelsmotels.com.