Light Spectacular show sparks holiday fundraising one car at a time

December 2, 2017

It's been said that everything old is new again. And that looks to be the case with the new Light Spectacular holiday light show at Winter WonderFest, now open in Lewes through Sunday, Dec. 31. Organizers say its unique holiday appeal for every age visitor makes it the hallmark attraction to support local fundraising and carloads of memory-making fun.

"We're only in our second year of this amazing event, so I don't think we qualify as old yet," said Peter Briccotto, Winter WonderFest event director. "But we're definitely new again, starting with the event's dazzling light display which is significantly larger than our inaugural year. Also, it's laid out over a more dramatic, yet intimate route through the campground at Cape Henlopen State Park."

Festival of Cheer Inc., the nonprofit organization which produces the powerhouse fundraiser, spent three months evaluating the feedback from its first-year festival-goers. "Our locals really do care about how Winter WonderFest benefits other nonprofits," said John Snow, president of the Sussex-based group which consists of local business and community leaders who are responsible for the event, including planning, oversight and execution.

"Hundreds of people took the time to give us their thoughts and suggestions, and our group took the time to evaluate each one," said Snow. The majority of the comments expressed hopes that the event will grow and become a Delaware holiday institution long into the future. "Of course we can't do everything people suggested in just our second year, but we have invested to make the centerpiece of this event – the Light Spectacular – significantly more spectacular."

The first-year show in 2016, which included 61 light displays and a Christmas Village at the neighboring Lewes Ferry terminal, raised $150,000. Of that amount, 17 Sussex County nonprofits received $100,000 in community grants. Festival of Cheer reinvested the remaining $50,000 into this year's event, with the mission to make the family-centric event bigger, brighter and cooler.

Brandano Lighting Display President John Brandano, who oversees scores of holiday lighting installations in the country, said, "The outpouring of volunteer support from the people in Lewes is awesome. The folks really want this to be special for their community. This year we're stepping up our game to make the Light Spectacular significantly more impressive." 

To achieve that,  Brandano increased the number of installations to 90, including new configurations inside the campground's picturesque setting. This year’s vehicle route features all-new configurations, five drive-throughs and 19 captivating animations. "One crowd-pleaser in particular is the remarkable Trapeze feature. Even regular visitors to the park won't believe their eyes at the transformation," said Briccotto. "It's brighter and much more colorful."

This year, a free smartphone app can be downloaded to provide commercial-free holiday music to guide visitors through the show. Special offers are also included on the Winter WonderFest App.

"Of course we'd like it to be even bigger," said Briccotto. "But this is a giant step forward, maximizing what's possible with our resources under the watch of Festival of Cheer."

Snow said, "Raising money for local nonprofits is the No. 1 priority. As more and more supporters and sponsors become involved, we will continue to develop Winter WonderFest into one of the country's most important holiday events – right here in Lewes!"

Visitors will notice that the Light Spectacular show is just part of the bigger, brighter, cooler aspect of Winter WonderFest. Certainly cooler is the new open-air Visit Delaware Ice Rink. It's open to the public every day except Monday. Public sessions and private lessons are available, and the facility may also be booked for birthday parties and holiday gatherings.

The Christmas Village at the ferry terminal has also been expanded to include more carnival rides, with two new ones appealing to adults and young adults. More midway games, a photo booth contest, a toasty fire pit and a main stage with free professional music each night make for a fun family outing. An onsite pizza truck and an enclosed community lodge serving craft beers, cocktails, coffee and hot cider provide a welcoming place to hang out and warm up.

At the entrance to the Christmas Village, visitors of every age will enjoy a stroll down Christmas Lane to explore 12 kid-sized quaint buildings, inside and out. This free attraction even has a vintage movie house continuously playing the movie "Elf.”

Inside the terminal, Santa's Workshops provide a festive setting for kids to create special holiday crafts. Local residents hosting guests with small children enjoy having the workshops to keep them entertained. Santa is also inside by the towering tree waiting to take wish lists and smile for pics.

For more information, including hours of operation and details for those who want to volunteer, go to or call 302-727-0221.

Proceeds support Winter WonderFest through the Festival of Cheer Community Grant Program designated exclusively for Sussex County nonprofit groups. Briccotto said, "The money we raise here, stays right here in Sussex County."

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