Volunteers have begun setting up displays of lights as part of Enchanted Land Of Lights and Legends at Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park.
Billed as Arkansas’ largest drive-through display of lights, the attraction is gearing up for its 20th season. Greg Gustek, president of the Pine Bluff Festival Association, oversees these efforts and credits volunteers and corporate sponsors for its success. They started installing the displays on Monday, Oct. 3.
With 285 displays at 185 locations, the attraction is scheduled to open Tuesday, Nov. 15, with Channel 7 News meteorologist Ned Perme, a band and a larger celebration than usual. Barring severe weather, it will be open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 31.
“That is why we have to start early,” Gustek said of preparations taking at least five weeks. “We ordered more than 20,000 bulbs. We normally order 10,000 to 12,000. We want to really look good.”
Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park borders Lake Langhofer, an extension of the Arkansas River. A paved road of 1.3 miles enables patrons to enjoy the sights from the comfort of their vehicles. Gustek set a goal of 115,000 visitors this year, after not reaching 100,000 last year.
Visitors of the display do not have to pay, although volunteers ask for a donation. Donors who give at least $10 will receive a Christmas ornament while supplies last.
“We are excited because this is the 20th season,” Gustek said. “I would never have thought we would make it this far. We have 100 sponsors. We ordered special displays for the 20th season. Our ornament will be a special design.”
In 2015 the display endured thefts, vandalism and severe flooding that caused its premature closure. Gustek hopes to erase those bad memories.
“All we can hope and pray is we have good weather,” Gustek said. “We will be open in light rain, unless the weather is severe. We do not want anyone to be in danger. We want to make sure we get enough money to grow… I do not change things that are working.”
Because of the vandalism, security has been increased.
“We hope what the Pine Bluff Festival Association does with this display and the Fourth of July fireworks are appreciated,” Gustek said.