Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Monday that the county will discontinue the annual holiday-themed Celebration of Lights at Hartwood Acres Park due to high costs and declining sponsorships.
The county-owned park spanning property in Hampton and Indiana townships has been the longtime site and the county Department of Parks and Recreation has overseen the annual three-mile driving tour of displays depicting Christmas, Hanukkah and winter themes.
In past years, the Celebration of Lights has been known to generate long lines of traffic snaking through the park and nearby communities as visitors waited for their turn to view the displays. Fitzgerald said the decision to suspend the Celebration of Lights was not made lightly but was necessary because the number of other corporate sponsors for the event has dwindled.
"We have been proud to partner with the Salvation Army and WTAE TV 4 for the past 20 years on this and are gratified that we have helped to generate $3.7 million in revenues for Project Bundle-Up and other local charities during that time,” Fitzgerald said.
“The cost to operate the event has increased year after year, and unfortunately, sponsorships have declined. Last year, taxpayers had to cover most of the Celebration of Lights’ $1.5-million cost. With the county’s limited financial resources, it is just not something that we are able to continue offering.”
The event began in 1991 with 28 displays and 250,000 lights, according to county officials. In December 2011, more than 2 million lights were included in displays at the event, which drew 170,000 visitors and generated $160,000 for charity.
County officials recognize that suspending the event will have an impact on charitable efforts to donate coats and other winter gear to those who need it, Fitzgerald said. They will work with WTAE and the Salvation Army "to help them offset that loss," he said.
What do you think?
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