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Winter WonderFest seeks corps of volunteers

October 11, 2017

Winter WonderFest welcomes community volunteers to help bring the holiday fundraiser to life. "Without our volunteers, none of this is possible," said Peter Briccotto, executive producer of 2017 Winter WonderFest, which benefits nonprofit organizations throughout Sussex County. In its first year, more than 47,000 visitors were welcomed to the Lewes attractions, and raised over $150,000 for Sussex County charities.

Visitors came from 26 states around the country during seven weeks of light shows, carnival rides, events on the midway, live music and holiday workshops. During that time kids of all ages took over 3,800 pictures while visiting with Santa. "It's all thanks to the scores of volunteers who collectively donated over 2,100 hours of service. Our corps of volunteers is key to producing these activities," said Briccotto. "Our locals really do embody true holiday spirit!"

Briccotto says many of the volunteers are groups of friends, as well as families, who can join the festivities and make new holiday memories together. During the community kickoff event hosted by Crooked Hammock in Lewes, over 150 visitors turned out to learn about the 2017 Winter WonderFest enhancements which organizers say will make the 2017 event bigger, brighter and cooler.

John Snow, president of Festival of Cheer, the nonprofit group responsible for the event, encouraged guests to visit the volunteer booth to sign up for their choice of many volunteer options. "To achieve our goals this year, we need even more people than last year." He said the Light Spectacular holiday light show at Cape Henlopen State Park will have more than 30 percent more lights this year. The Christmas Village will boast two more carnival rides for bigger "kids," five new midway games, professional entertainment nightly and The Lodge, a heated and enclosed area for everyone to enjoy bites and beverages.

A partnership with Visit Delaware, the state's tourism division, will provide a much bigger, open-air skating rink with real ice. Last year's skating venue was used by over 4,500 skaters. "We are so grateful that Visit Delaware has recognized the importance of Winter WonderFest to our community with this extraordinary investment,” said Snow. Skating parties, skating lessons, private rentals and public sessions will be open every day except Monday.

"Each and every one of our attractions needs the support of volunteers to keep things running smoothly," said Snow. "This year we've expanded our grand opening weekend to three days." Dashin' Through The Show opens Friday, Nov. 17, with a 5 p.m. Fun Run and Walk through the holiday light show in the park. It's the only opportunity to get up close with the light displays for fun with friends and up-close photos.

Snow also announced that at 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 19, there will be a competitive 5K race, with walkers welcome as well. At 6:30 p.m., dog lovers are welcome to bring their pets to experience the show. "Yes, Fido is welcome," said Snow. "And so are volunteers to help manage the event." To register for Dashin' Through The Show, go to www.wonderfestde.org.

Volunteers may also sign up to take part in activities of their choice. "We welcome everyone who wants to be involved," said Briccotto. Some of this year’s volunteer needs are cashiers, skate rental attendants, merchandise booth, midway games and information booth attendants. "And we're always happy to have folks help with the set up and breakdown," he added.

Winter WonderFest will open for vehicle traffic Thanksgiving weekend, Friday-Sunday, Nov. 24-26, featuring a new tour route this year. The Light Spectacular, the Christmas Village, Santa's Workshop and the newly constructed ice rink will be open through New Year's Eve with a special community party. This year both the Light Spectacular and the Christmas Village will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. The Visit Delaware Ice Rink will be open Tuesday through Sunday. For rink hours and ticket information, go to www.wonderfestde.org.

Proceeds support Winter WonderFest through the Festival of Cheer charitable giving program. Award grants are designated exclusively for Sussex County nonprofit groups. "The money we raise here stays right here in Sussex County," said Briccotto. For more information and to volunteer, go to www.wonderfestde.org.

Last year, over $100,000 from Winter WonderFest was distributed to 17 nonprofit organizations. For more information, go to www.festivalofcheer.org.

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