Festival of Lights getting ready for 32nd season: Annual holiday event saw slight decrease in revenue and attendance last year after record numbers

Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

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CLEMMONS — It seems like the Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights just gets bigger and better every year, but the 2022 event actually saw a slight decrease in revenue and attendance.

With this season’s Festival of Lights set to open next Thursday (Nov. 17) and run through Jan. 1, 2024, a look back at last year shows a minor setback followed record-setting crowds in the 2020 season, which saw a spike thanks to COVID and restrictions on crowds gathering indoors, and in 2021, which also saw a hike in revenue and net profit after a price increase.

Damon Sanders-Pratt, Forsyth County’s deputy county manager, said that the revenue yield was 45 percent higher in the 2021 season than in 2020 — and that happened to be the highest ever for any year.

“Part of that is that we increased the cost to attend,” Sanders-Pratt said of the 2021 numbers. “So that cost went up by more than the number of vehicles that went down. It was about 10 percent less attendance (57,925) compared to 2020 (64,057), but the previous year was the highest year ever of vehicles going to the event.”
In the 2022 season, the vehicle count was 52,161, with revenue of $1,221,988 compared to the all-time record revenue of $1,313,705 in 2021.

Rates went up in 2021 to $20 for cash and $23 for credit card per family vehicle after being unchanged for years at $15 for cars, vans and trucks. Rates for commercial vehicles went up to $45 cash and $48 credit card (the previous rate was $35), and $115 cash and $118 credit card for motorcoaches and buses (the previous rate was $100).

Rates will remain unchanged in 2023, which will be the 32nd season for the annual lights show. The operating hours are 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night.

An option to save money is the annual discount nights on the first two Monday and Tuesday nights before Thanksgiving (Nov. 20-21 and Nov. 27-28), which are $10 cash and $13 credit card for family vehicles; $25 cash and $28 credit card for commercial vehicles; and $80 cash and $83 credit card for motorcoaches and buses.
As a new feature, Sanders said that this year’s Festival of Lights will feature an “LED pixel wall” with 4,230 lights accommodating a 30’x20′ display that shows high-quality graphics.

In addition to driving through the brilliant lights and a wide variety of displays, the Gift Village, which is anchored by the Gift Shop at the Red Barn, features holiday crafts, wood workings, seasonal treats and other gifts made by local crafters. S’Moresville will continue marshmallow roasting at the site as well.

Other holiday experiences offered by Tanglewood stables include horse-drawn carriage rides and tractor-pulled hayrides through the route. Advance reservations are required by calling 336-766-9540 to check prices and availability.

Due to safety concerns, riding through the Festival of Lights in the back of a pick-up truck or in/on a trailer that is connected to a vehicle is prohibited.

Other events held along with the Festival of Lights include:

  • Miles for Meals 5K on Saturday (Nov. 11) supports the Hillsdale Church Food Ministry to help those in need.
  • Toast (The Totally Outstanding Awesome Stroll through Tanglewood) on Sunday (Nov. 12) is a popular event for families, walkers, strollers and wagon rollers to view the lights.
  • Paws in the Park on Monday, Nov. 13, and Tuesday, Nov. 14, offers animal lovers the opportunity to bring their four-legged friends with them to the park for a walk through the dazzling display.
  • Running of the Lights on Sunday, Dec. 31, is a race to start off the New Year through the Festival of Lights at midnight.

For further information about any of these activities or other questions related to the Festival of Lights, go to www.forsyth.cc/Parks/Tanglewood/fol or call Tanglewood Park at 336-703-6400.