More than 74,000 guests visited the walk-through Winterfest of Lights this year at Northside Park on 125th Street.

(Jan. 8, 2021) Guests seemed to enjoy the revamped Winterfest of Lights this year as 74,201 visited the displays at Northside Park on 125th Street.

“We, as a department, are very pleased in how Winterfest succeeded during a very trying year for events,” said Lisa Mitchell, private event coordinator for the Town of Ocean City. “The feedback from staff and attendees was very, very positive.”

Winterfest of Lights looked a bit different than in past years as visitors had the opportunity to walk through the park to view the light displays rather than take a 12-minute tram ride around, because of covid-19 restrictions.

“A majority of our attendees loved the walk-through. Some comments from our guests were they appreciated the ability to stop and get photos of the lights and really take their time looking at the lights and walking through at their own pace,” Mitchell said. “They were able to socially distance, keeping to their own group on the path.”

The 28th annual festival opened on Nov. 19 and the final day was Jan. 2. Winterfest was open Wednesday through Sunday and was closed four nights because of poor weather. It was in operation a total of 29 nights.

“People have asked before, ‘Can’t I just walk through?’” Special Event Coordinator Brenda Moore said after opening weekend, but since there were trams consistently rolling through the park each year, safety-wise, it just wasn’t feasible to have people walking around as well.

Opening weekend drew 6,637 visitors, a marginal 9 percent decrease compared to last year’s attendance.

Jessica Waters, acting tourism director/communications manager, visited the park on opening night with her family.

“I think the new Winterfest walk-through event is fantastic. Not only is there plenty of space to spread out and safely social distance, but it also allows families to take their time and check out each individual light display,” she said after her experience. “My family ordered hot chocolate and strolled through the park, taking photos and stopping at our favorite displays along the way.”

Opening night alone of the 28th annual event drew 1,156 guests.

“In a year that has been filled with canceled events, it feels great to celebrate the holiday season in a safe and responsible way,” Waters said. “Our special events department did a fantastic job making sure that this year was not only safe for families, but would be a dose of much needed joy for all this holiday season.”

Thanksgiving weekend also saw a large turnout, with 12,265 total guests. The largest crowd visited the park on Saturday, Dec. 12, which recorded an attendance of 6,137.

And despite rain closing Winterfest on Friday, Jan. 1, the event still attracted 5,318 guests during the final weekend. The last night of operation was Saturday, Jan. 2.

This year Wednesday was “Furry Friends Day,” where pets were welcome. Hot chocolate was again available for purchase and there was a gift shop, located inside the recreation complex this year. Santa was also inside for visitors to greet. Visitors had their temperature taken upon entry into the shop and masks were required.

Attendees could also participate in a scavenger hunt, which included looking for reindeer in flight, a famous furry friend and some sparkly bling. There was also a “Junior Reindeer Navigation Test Maze,” a large fire truck to check out and several stops for photo opportunities.

For 27 years Winterfest was viewed by tram, but with the success of the walk-through event this year, organizers will look into it as an option next year.

“We haven’t begun discussions on what next year’s Winterfest will look like, but with the positive reviews the walk-through Winterfest received, we will definitely brainstorm what our options are moving forward with Winterfest 2021, possibly seeing if we can somehow create a new hybrid of this longstanding holiday tradition,” Mitchell said.

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