By LISA HOOVER
LISBON -- The banks of the St. Lawrence River will sparkle with as many as 90 lighting displays Dec. 14 to 22 as the fourth annual Lights on the River takes over the beach and campground.
Created by local businesses, organizations, and families, 85 displays are scheduled to light up each night from 5 to 9 p.m.
Santa and his elves will make appearances, and organizers will accept donations of cash or non-perishable food items for local food pantries.
This year’s event will also feature a “neat little take on ‘Where’s Waldo,” said organizer Scott Wilhelm. Organizers are going to have a “doll that everyone is going to be looking for through all the displays,” he said. “I shouldn’t say it’s little, it’s huge.”
“Her name is Susie Q the rag doll, and she is hiding in one of the displays at Lights on the River,” he said. Kids under age 12 who locate Susie will be entered into a drawing for a prize.
The number of displays has continued to increase, “up to 85” this year, according to Wilhelm. The first Lights on the River event in 2010 started with 25 displays.
The area covered by the event has expanded to keep pace with the increased number of entries, Wilhelm said. The “beach has expanded, they have added in more powered sites.”
“Last year it was really tight,” with only about 30 feet per display, he said. This year’s displays will have 45 feet each, with space for up to 90 displays, but the event is “pretty close to capacity” at 85, he said.
“Next year we hope to pack some more in, hopefully hit the 100 mark,” he said.
While this year won’t feature any live exhibits, organizers “plan to bring that back next year,” he said.
About 12,000 visitors rolled through the exhibit last year, according to Wilhelm. He expects this year’s event to exceed that number.
"We think the bigger we make it, the more people that are going to come which in turn helps us to aid more food pantries," he said.
Prizes will still be given out this year, but voting must be done on site, Wilhelm said. “Voting will be done through ballots at the booths this year. To vote you’ll have to be down there.” Prizes will be awarded in business, non-profit, and family categories, with $50 to each winner.
This year’s event will benefit several pantries new to the event, with Norwood-Norfolk-Raymondville and Massena and Gouverneur Neighborhood Centers added to the list of beneficiaries, according to Wilhelm. The event has raised over $32,000 for local food pantries to date, along with thousands of pounds of food.
For more information and photos of past events visit lightsontheriver.org.
The Lights on the River organizers are Scott and Stephanie Wilhelm, Amy Fortin, Dicky Marcellus, Jeff and Rebecca Buckingham, Robert McNeil, Dave Smith, Hank Wilhelm, Jackie Sovie, and Mike McDonnell.