Record number of visitors experience Festival of Lights

Despite having a night figuratively blown away by a dust storm, a record number of attendees visited the 2012 Comanche Trail of Lights Christmas exhibitMore than 23,000 visitors drove through the exhibit during its two-week run, which ended Monday, said Pat Simmons, longtime chairperson of the festival committee.“It wasn't the 25,000 I was hoping for, but we're doing better and getting closer,” Simmons said.The figures are even more notable when one considers that a dust storm limited one night's attendance to slightly more than 500 — no other night drew less than 800 visitors, Simmons said. On the other end of the spectrum, attendance topped 2,000 on three separate occasions.And the festival proved to be more than just a local attraction; Simmons said the event drew attendees from 38 states and 17 countries.Simmons said several factors helped push attendance to record numbers.“We had two new adopt-a-spots (displays set up by local businesses or organizations),” she said. “And the exhibits … were just fantastic.”Another factor in the increase was the inclusion of a geese-counting contest, which was added to boost attendance in the week after Christmas, when numbers are traditionally lower, Simmons said.Simmons said 87 entries were received and 54 people made correct guesses. Beverly Faber's name was selected in a drawing to determine the winner. Her prize: a free day and night at the Hotel Settles.Festival committee members and volunteers will spend the next few days disassembling the exhibits and a wrap-up meeting is planned within the next 10 days, Simmons said.“We'll start laying out plans (for the 2013 festival) sometime in June and July and in October we'll start back to work,” she added.