FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): Once the lights were finally turned off for the last time, Blue Jacket’s annual Fantasy of Lights holiday display in Fort Wayne had seen more than 27,300 vehicles pass through.
Organizers say they nearly eclipsed last year’s attendance record, while easily beating the previous 2018 record by more than 4,000 cars, despite wind issues that cut short the annual Christmas Village offering and two vandalism incidents.
Blue Jacket has run the event at Franke Park since 2015, with proceeds going toward their programming, which is dedicated to helping those who have “barriers” to employment.
Here are some highlights from the event, provided by Blue Jacket officials:
495 vehicles took advantage of special themed nights. Blue Jacket opened early for VIPs like teachers, front line workers/first responders, those who served in the military, providing free entrance with ID. Blue Jacket also offered patrons who decorated their cars in a Christmas theme or rode their motorcycles on a designated warm evening free entrance.
200 vehicles took advantage of the “Pay what you want” night with no expectations on entry fees. Some drivers gave $100 so other visitors could attend for free.
Over 1,000 vehicles were blessed with free entrance because of the benevolence of other drivers offering a “pay it forward” donation. Sometimes after learning of their own free entry, vehicles would continue a “pay it forward” chain lasting over an hour.
2,300 runners and walkers attended Fort4Fitness’s 6th Annual Winter Wonder Dash held before official open over two evenings.
70 cyclists received a police escort mid-December through the 2-mile route on Blue Jacket’s 2nd annual “Bike Night” in partnership with Three Rivers Velo Sport.
Over 2,000 dog treats were provided to 4-legged riders by partner Humane Fort Wayne.
15 – 30 minutes were cut from average wait times on moderate evenings as a result of pushing start time up by a half hour to 5:30 p.m.
Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown, Mayor Tom Henry, Ex-officio Fantasy of Lights Leader Lynne Gilmore, Fort Wayne Parks Director Steve McDaniel, the Blue Jacket Board of Directors and Santa all helped Faithlynn Bruning and her family flip the oversized Shambaugh and Sons Light Switch, turning on the lights for the season. Her family won the honor on a Facebook contest weeks prior to the opening.
13 new displays were added, the largest increase in any given year.
The 2nd Annual Christmas Village doubled in size to 22 vendors and an average of 1,000 nightly guests when open. The large Santa Experience tent had many more activities for children and capped it off with a visit with Santa.