The lights of the fantasy drive-through display in Smith Park, downtown Middletown, will continue to sparkle at Light Up Middletown throughout the holiday season. Gates open 5:30- to 9:30 every evening regardless of weather, holidays included through New Year’s Eve. Santa and Mrs. Claus will appear Friday and Saturday, December 22 and 23, before heading back to the North Pole to load the sleigh for the big delivery night. Occasionally, costumed characters appear near the entrance tunnel.
Nearly 500 families have taken advantage of the photo service at the Santa house this season. For a $5 donation, Light Up volunteers will take a photo of the children with Santa and Mrs. Claus and produce a print to take home.
Attendance records have been broken throughout the season. The 2006 figures are running 68% above the 2005 attendance numbers. By Thursday 41,075 people had toured the light display in 12,179 vehicles. Twenty-eight motor coach tours, retirement village buses and school sports team buses have also joined the tour. While cash donation totals will be announced at the end of the season, the collection boxes sometimes yield unusual items. So far, seven coin-shaped tokens for everything from a Smoky Mountain arcade to a local car wash have been received. A wallet, complete with identification, empty of money, dropped through the slot one evening. Several cash register receipts from businesses as far away as Kentucky have also let the committee know their guests do come from out of town.
Light Up Middletown is a non-profit organization raising funds for Middletown park improvements and is run totally by volunteers. The Light Up committee shares some of the donations with other non-profit organizations whose members serve as greeters at the gate each evening.
Those who visit Light Up Middletown are asked to make a cash donation as their admission fee. Event organizers ask that each guest drop a dollar or two in the donation box. No specific amount is required but they ask that everyone contribute something to help cover the costs.
For more information, call Flo Randall, event chairwoman, at 513-423-1877.