Festival of Lights preparations are already gearing up

With less than a month to go, preparations for the annual Festival of Lights have gone past high gear and are safely into overdrive, organizers said.The 17th annual Christmas season attraction, which attracts thousands of visitors to Comanche Trail Park, will run from Dec. 15-31 at Comanche Trail Park, longtime director Pat Simmons said.But the attraction will get its unofficial start the evening of Thanksgiving, when the switches are thrown on several lighted poinsettias which will decorate the dam at Comanche Trail Lake.“(Former Big Spring Mayor) Russ McEwen asked me one time if we could do something like that,” Simmons recalled. “A lot of visitors who come through here on Thanksgiving won’t be here for Christmas, so it is for those people.”The week after Thanksgiving, festival workers will begin setting up displays on Dec. 2. The festival will feature more than 1 million lights and hundreds of displays, turning a large section of the park into a West Texas style Christmas wonderland.More than 20,000 visitors are expected during the event, which last year attracted people from 38 states and 17 foreign countries.“I’m hoping for 25,000 people this year,” Simmons said. “We’ve come close a couple of times, but we’ve never quite reached that number, and I’d like to see that happen.”The festival has always been a treat for the eyes, but Simmons hopes to make it a joy for the ears this year, as well — she is organizing a group of carolers to entertain festival visitors.“Donations are what help the wheels of the organization move,” Simmons said. “That allows us to pay for the electricity and buy more lights for next year.”For more information on this year’s festival, contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 264-2516 or 263-8235.Contact Staff Writer Steve Reagan at 263-7331 ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@bigspringherald.com