“Even Santa Views NorthCountryNow.com” is among the many displays that will be featured at Lights on the River.
By JIMMY LAWTON
LISBON -- What started as a small idea has grown into county-wide holiday tradition along the St. Lawrence River as Lights on the River opens for the third season Saturday at 5 p.m.
In three short years Lights on the River has tripled the number of participants and contributed more than $16,000 to local food pantries.
"We never thought it would get this big," said Scott Wilhelm, one of six founders of the non-profit event. "Basically six friends got together at the kitchen table with an idea to come up with something similar to Lights on the Lake and it has just grown from there."
Wilhelm said the group had about 25 displays in 2010. In 2011 the group doubled that number.
This year, Wilhelm said 75 exhibits will light the town-owned campground.
"It was our goal to fill the campground. I wasn't sure it was possible, but we actually had to cut it off this year because of space constraints," he said.
Wilhelm estimated 3,000 cars passed through the gate last year, many of them full of passengers. He expects an ever better turnout this year, based on past experiences.
"We think the bigger we make it, the more people that are going to come and the more we call help out the food pantries," he said.
While there is no charge to visit Lights on The River, donations of food or money are accepted at the gate. Wilhelm said there is no recommended amount and all donations stay in St. Lawrence County.
Over the years Wilhelm said organizers have learned a lot. He said they have worked with local media to promote the ever, sought help from members of community and civic groups for support and developed relationship with local businesses.
Wilhelm joked that the most memorable lesson was learned the hard way.
"Last year we learned water and electricity equals zap," he said. "We've also learned that there are a lot of people that are willing to help and people have some amazing talents and ideas they willing to contribute."
He said the amount of support the organization has received is hard to believe.
"The feel good of it is that if you come together with a good idea, there are lots of people in community who want to help with these things."
Lights on the River is located at Lisbon Beach and Campground, Route 37. The displays will be lit from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 13 through Dec. 23.
Organizers are Scott and Stephanie Wilhelm, Amy Fortin, Colleen Anderson, Dicky Marcellus, Jeff Buckingham, Dave Smith, Hank Wilhelm and Mike McDonnell.
Prizes of $50 will be awarded to winners in three categories including family, non-profit and business.
Winners will be selected based on 50 percent online voting and 50 percent selected judges.