Volunteers are gearing up for the fourth annual Natures Coastal Holiday to be held Dec. 8-31 at Azalea Park.

We expect to have an even bigger and better light festival this year than last, said Keith Pepper, who with Olivia Abbott, is founder of the festival of lights.

Last years festival drew 14,518 visitors to Azalea Park and Brookings-Harbor.

More than 100 volunteers, both groups and individuals, annually give their time to string lights on trees and shrubbery, and decorate sculptures of birds, sharks, whales and other creatures.

The volunteers also provide security, offer entertainment and host evenings during the festival.

A total of 15,000 cookies and 308 gallons of cider were served during last years festival. The festival raised more than $10,000 for local community programs.

This year well have more lights, additional displays and new sculptures, Pepper said.

Last years 75,000 lights should be eclipsed by nearly 90,000 lights this December, Pepper said.

Flora Pacifica is sponsoring a whole new section in the park, the city of Brookings is building another Elk, and teacher Steve Kucharskis shop classes are busy building animals and flowers for the Enchanted Garden.

Pepper said the big days for decorating sculptures and walkways in the park will be Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3.

Volunteers wishing to host nights at the festival should call Gail Hedding at (707) 464-8511. People wanting to provide entertainment should call Olivia Abbott at (541) 469-0157.

Donations can be sent to Natures Coastal Holiday, 516 Redwood St., Brookings.

New at the festival last year was the Animal Encounter display, which featured a life-sized bull elk, a Brookings-Harbor High School bruin, a skunk, a snail and leaping frogs and salmons.

A Y2K champagne bottle display also attracted visitors, but the original Undersea World with lobsters, clams, shells and other sea critters glowing under blacklights was still the most popular display.

The largest attendance during the 22-day 1999 light festival was Christmas Eve, when balmy weather and a visit from Santa Claus lured 1,378 visitors to Azalea Park. However, several other nights came close.