Lackluster light show?
Written by Don Iler, Pilot staff writer   
November 05, 2013 11:03 pm

 

Nature’s Coastal Holiday light show at Brookings’ Azalea Park needs donations and volunteers, organizers say. Otherwise the popular annual event, which attracts thousands of visitors with its 500,000-plus colored lights, will be less bright. 

“I don’t think people realize the cost behind the event,” Lorie Botnen, one of the event’s committee members, said Tuesday. “It takes about $20,000 a year for the light show to happen.”

Botnen blames the struggling economy for a significant drop in donations this year. The loss of key volunteers is another factor.

Botnen says the large cost and the thousands of behind-the-scenes hours of volunteer work that go into the light display may go unnoticed by visitors. 

“We’re going into this show behind where we need to be,” Botnen said. 

Committee member Bryan Tillung added, “We want to keep it going, but we can’t do it without more donations.”

Upkeep of the lights costs $8,000 to $10,000 every year. Lights that have been trampled by animals or burned out because of age and use need to replaced. The group also pays for the electricity needed to power the lights. Toss in insurance, security, storage, trash removal and another $3,000 for cider, hot chocolate and cookies, the costs of the event start to add up. 

“People see the lights come on and it’s a magical time for families,” Tillung said. “But we are seeing a lack of donations.”

The annual light display, scheduled to open Dec. 1 and run nightly through Christmas, attracts about 15,000 visitors every year, with some coming from Medford, Coos Bay and Arcata. There are over a half million lights used and it takes volunteers two days to set up.

Volunteers will be setting up the lights on Nov. 16 and 17, but Botnen said before this can happen they need a volunteer to go through the lights to check and make sure they are still in working and prepare them for quick set up.

A nine-person committee organizes the event and meets monthly and then weekly during the two months leading up to opening night. Once the event is running, volunteers man the ticket booths and city employees also work to keep trash cans empty and restrooms clean. 

The light show began in 1997 and has been held annually in Azalea Park during the month of December. 

While funds and volunteers are both urgently needed, Tillung says the event isn’t going anywhere. 

“It’s not going to go away. We can just do the best we can,” Tillung said. “It’s been going on for quite a while and we want to keep it going.”

Those wishing to donate to Nature’s Coastal Holiday can do so at any Rogue Credit Union branch or to a PayPal account that can be accessed on the Nature’s Coastal Holiday Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naturescoastalholiday. 

Those interested in volunteering should contact Tillung at 541-254-1973.