The Festival of Lights show at Chehaw, which ends its seasonal run Sunday night, has drawn its biggest crowds this year, park officials say.
ALBANY, Ga. -- With just two days left to view the annual Festival of Lights at Chehaw, Executive Director Doug Porter was beaming Friday when asked about attendance numbers during the month-long show.
"The numbers have been outstanding," Porter said "Through the 26th we've had 8,380 people and 2,498 vehicles see the show, compared to 4,859 people and 1,483 vehicles at the same time last year.
"This year's attendance has been the best ever."
The Festival of Lights kicked off on Nov. 30 and will be open today and Sunday before closing.
"We think the attendance numbers are up because we are building a tradition here. A few years ago we had old lights and it was a sad show," Porter said. "We made a decision to either make it better or cancel it altogether."
The park entered into a three-year contract with an outside firm to put tighter the festival at $20,000 per year. While the show immediately improved, the price tag proved to be prohibitive.
"Our guys (park employees) said that we can do this as good if not better, so we did not renew the contract."
In 2010, Chehaw began to do the work itself and attendance numbers, and profits, began to climb."
"It doesn't cost as much now because we own it," Porter said. "It's costing less and less as the years go by, and our staff is really proud of that. It's been a positive experience for everybody.
"We've seen traffic increase and have heard more talk from the community. It's good for business and it's good for the park."
Porter could not help but take a peek into the future to 2013.
"We have to constantly look at at combination of the old favorites while coming up with new ideas" he said. "That is our biggest challenge."
The cost to view the Festival of Lights is $12 per vehicle for Chehaw members and $15 for non-members. To ride the train, patrons pay an additional $3 per person.