After setting attendance records last year, Light Up Middletown is preparing for its 19th season.
Light Up Middletown opens Thanksgiving and runs from 6 to 10 p.m. every night through New Years Eve at Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave.
Last year, 78,500 people drove through the lights display in more than 23,000 vehicles, pushing its 18-year overall attendance to more than 1 million visitors, according to Cheryl Landen, secretary of the volunteer organization that organizes the event.
The previous Light Up Middletown records were 74,239 visitors and 21,041 vehicles set in 2015, Landen said.
One of the goals of Light Up Middletown is to provide an inexpensive and close place for families to enjoy the holidays, said Flo Randall, who founded the lights display 19 years ago.
Admission is by donation and proceeds are donated to local non-profit groups and used to upgrade Smith Park.
The Light Up Middletown committee also tries to add attractions and move light displays around Smith Park, Landen said.
This year, visitors will drive through a longer tunnel as they enter the park and pass candy cane lane. A 30-foot Christmas tree has also been added near the electronic tree display.
Santa Claus will be at Light Up Middletown from 7 to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24 through Dec. 23. Pictures will be available for $10 or two for $15, Landen said. Santa will greet the children in the Santa House.
Hot air balloons will once again be on display during a special balloon glow event from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11.
Randall also announced a new board chairperson and officers for the 2017 season. Bill Becker will be the chairperson. Larry Blitz (vice chair), Tim Pruett (treasurer), Barney Strassburger (site manager) and Ed Dobrozsi and Josh Laubach will continue to serve on the board.
Strassburger said volunteers from AK Steel helped set up the lights this year, and the warm weather allowed the Grandpa Gang, a group of longtime volunteers, to be ahead of schedule.