The damp conditions Tuesday night did not extinguish the lighting ceremony kicking off the 15th anniversary year of the Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends at Pine Bluff Regional Park.

The damp conditions Tuesday night did not extinguish the lighting ceremony kicking off the 15th anniversary year of the Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends at Pine Bluff Regional Park.

Pine Bluff Festival Association Executive Director Greg Gustek said that while the weather did force some cancellations the opening night event had a respectable turnout.

“We had Bill Albright, husband of the Association’s board member emeritus Lyn Albright, who passed away last month, as the official light switch thrower,” Gustek said. “All of their family members and some of our board members were there for the ceremony.

“While we had to cancel KATV Channel 7’s live broadcast, the Pine Bluff High School band and the display walk-through, we had over 100 cars that participated in the drive-through,” Gustek said. “By canceling the walk-through, we actually were able to accommodate more people in the drive-through.

“We are excited to be celebrating the 15th year of the state’s largest drive-through of holiday lights. We have over 200 displays in 156 locations and added 12 new displays for this year. We have been so successful that we are running out of park. If you have a 1.2-mile park and you fill it up you’re doing well. That’s why we are the state’s largest holiday light display,” Gustek said.

“This year we have four displays at the Pine Bluff Convention Center and Chief Saracen Camp at Saracen Landing. As we continue to add new displays we will keep continuing to find new locations to present them,” Gustek said.

Gustek said that in his role as director of the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau, he and his staff have worked to increase the number of tour buses that include Lights and Legends on their itineraries.

“One of my assistants has worked with the American Bus Association and sold them on the idea of bringing tour buses through Pine Bluff on their way to other destinations,” Gustek said. “A lot of tour operators who are bringing people up to the Branson [Missouri] Christmas Show now stop off in Pine Bluff to go through the Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends. The neat thing is that because the display’s hours are between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. once they have gone through chances are they will stay in Pine Bluff overnight at a hotel and eat some supper here. This really is a tourism mecca for us.

“Last year we had a total of 108,000 people come out and this year I would like for us to break 110,000. We started breaking 100,000 about three years ago,” Gustek said.

Gustek said that Lights and Legends will be taking place for a total of 47 days, from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. each night.

Pine Bluff is one of 66 communities around the state that are participating in the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

The trail, which begins Thanksgiving week and lasts through Christmas, has grown every year since its beginning in 1996 and has been selected as a Top 100 Event for 2011 by the American Bus Association, according to the ADPT.

Free copies of the Trail of Holiday Lights brochure with specific information about displays across the state of Arkansas can be downloaded at www.arkansas.com/places-to-go/trail-of-lights, and are also available at Bank of America locations, Best Western hotels, Shell Superstops and Arkansas Welcome Centers.