CLEMMONS, N.C. — The switch was thrown at Tanglewood Park at dusk Saturday, and more than 1 million LED lights were lit to start the 22nd annual Festival of Lights.
Jazmine Kilpatrick, the marketing director at Tanglewood, said there are more than 80 displays this year.
The festival is one of the largest in the Southeast. On average, about 250,000 people attend each year.
One new thing this year is that people can go to the festival and have dinner, Kilpatrick said. A vendor will offer stews, chili, corn on the cob and barbecue sliders for sale, she said.
Heavenview Church’s Christmas Choir will be performing.
People coming to the festival will be able to save $5 off admission today and Tuesday, and again on Dec. 2 and 3.
“We’re calling them Throwback Nights,” Kilpatrick said.
The theme today and Tuesday is wearing the paraphernalia of a favorite sports team; on Dec. 2 and 3, it’s wearing a Santa hat.
Kilpatrick said that guests and workers look forward to the festival.
“We hope people will come out, have dinner, and have their picture made with Santa, Kilpatrick said.
Another local connection to the festival is some of the music. The music at the dancing Christmas tree and the bells was composed by students in the UNC School of the Arts School of Music, Kilpatrick said.
For the second year, BB&T is sponsoring the festival. Michael Troutman, a senior vice president and the retail banking manager at BB&T, said that the festival fits well with the bank’s commitment to communities.
“It gives back to the community and that goes hand in hand with our mission statement,” Troutman said.
Some people got a preview of the festival at fundraising events sponsored by local nonprofit agencies. One of those was Walk for Wishes, a fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Central and Western North Carolina.
Troutman and Kilpatrick said that because of those events, 12,000 disadvantaged adults and children in the area are helped throughout the year.
Each night weekly, a different volunteer group works at the festival, and a percentage of the admissions are donated to the group, which also goes back into the community, Kilpatrick said.
A run is also planned through the festival at midnight Dec. 31 to ring in the New Year.
No holiday festival worth its ho-ho-ho would be complete without the jolly old man from the North Pole.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Holiday Gift Village on special nights during the festival to hear Christmas lists and have their pictures taken with festival goers.
“We want to invite everyone to come to the Red Barn and see us,” Santa said.
“You’ll even see toys that Santa played with when he was little,” Mrs. Claus added.