Tanglewood Festival of Lights celebrates 30-year anniversary

Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 4, 2021

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Coming off record-setting attendance, lights show now comes at higher price

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

After back-to-back, record-setting attendance totals the last two years, what does the Tanglewood Festival of Lights do for an encore in 2021?

How about “the Big 3-0” as the popular lights show celebrates its 30th anniversary?

Yes, the Festival of Lights, which opens Friday, Nov. 12, has withstood the test of time and actually had its best year in 2020 with the impact of COVID making it the only show in town.

Brandi Chappell, marketing and events manager for the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department, offered an estimate of approximately 380,000 people attending last season’s Festival of Lights compared with 309,000 visitors for the previous year. Typical estimates in previous years ranged from 250,000 to 300,000 people riding through to see the colorful displays.

Last year’s numbers were achieved during a strictly drive-through event with the Gift Village and S’moresville being shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re hoping to draw more people (this year) that want to stop and are willing to get out with those things being open,” Chappell said.

However, Santa again will not be on site for a second straight year.

“Santa unfortunately is not going to be here this year,” Chappell said. “What I’ve been telling everyone is he is trying to stay safe so he can make it for Christmas.”

The lights show will run each night from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Jan. 1 except on Dec. 31, which the show closes at 10 p.m.

One change that goes into effect this year is a price increase to $20 for cash and $23 for credit/debit card per family vehicle. Rates were unchanged for years at $15 for cars, vans and trucks.

It has been several years since prices have been increased and the reason is mainly due to increased costs of operating the show,” said Mike Anderson, Forsyth County Parks and Recreation director. “Because cash transactions take less time to process, we hope that we will see an increase in these transactions, therefore improving the traffic flow.”

Rates for commercial vehicles are now $45 cash and $48 credit/debit card (last year’s rate was $35), and $115 cash and $118 credit/debit card for motorcoaches and buses (last year’s rate was $100).

The new and actual price for each category is the credit card pricing and cash prices are discounted,” Anderson said.

The always popular discount nights from the past are on Monday and Tuesday nights Nov. 15-16, and Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 22-23), which are now $10 cash and $13 credit/debit card for family vehicles ($5 last year); $25 cash and $28 credit/debit card for commercial vehicles ($15 last year); and $80 cash and $83 credit/debit card for motorcoaches and buses ($65 last year).

Horse-drawn carriage rides ($80 cash or check, plus Festival of Lights admission) and tractor-pulled hayrides ($150 cash or check, plus Festival of Lights admission) are also available. For reservations or more information, call the Stables at 336-766-9540.

Even with the addition last year of a new road-widening project to four lanes inside the park entrance, traffic remains a challenge. That’s especially true on weekends with vehicles stacked up on the roads leading to and entering Tanglewood with potential three-plus hour waits to get through the entire show.

Also this year, all the special events related to the Festival of Lights, which were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, are back on the schedule.

It all begins with the Miles for Meals 5K on Saturday, Nov. 6, which supports the Manna Meals soup ministry.

Next up is TOAST (The Totally Outstanding Awesome Stroll through Tanglewood) on Sunday, Nov. 7, a family-friendly event for families, walkers, strollers and wagon rollers through the lights.

And then there’s Paws in the Park, which is Monday, Nov. 8, and Tuesday, Nov. 9, where animal lovers can bring their four-legged friends to walk amongst the lights.

On the back end of the holiday season is the Running of the Lights on Dec. 31, where participants can start off the new year with a race through the Festival of Lights at midnight.

For further information about any of these activities or other questions, call Tanglewood Park at 336-703-6400.

As for anything special to commemorate the 30th anniversary, Chappell said, “We have a few new displays that are going to be showcased on the route and we’re hoping to have something on our Opening Night.”