(Jan. 4, 2019) Despite a washout due to several days of rain this season, over 105,000 passengers rode through the Winterfest of Lights from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 at Northside Park on 125th Street.
“It started out slow this year during Winterfest, watching the average daily temperature compared to last year,” Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller said. “I was also doing a comparison to 2015. The average daily temperature was about four degrees lower and although that doesn’t sound like much on average, that’s quite a bit. It wasn’t until we had this recent trend of warm weather this past weekend that we actually went up.”
The 12-minute tram ride took guests through 58 acres of more than 400 displays of fairytale characters and holiday figures accompanied by festive music.
“Between Dec. 3 and Dec. 14, we had really low temperatures and that really had us worried that we were going to go into this cold spell that was going to last the rest of the year,” Miller said. “Luckily it bounced back a little bit, but then really spiked this past weekend [especially] being a holiday weekend with people in town.”
Attendance during the final weekend of the 25th annual event increased significantly compared to the last couple of years with 9,000 riders between Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 29-30. The biggest night overall was Saturday, Dec. 29, when more than 5,000 people road the tram.
For the seventh year, a fireworks display synchronized to music was set off at midnight on New Year’s Eve at Northside Park. It was well attended with 2,600 people riding the Winterfest Express and around 6,000 people coming out to join in the festivities, Miller said.
“We give them something fun to do, something familiar and yet something new,” Miller said.
Several rainy or severely windy nights affected the event, starting on the opening night on Nov. 15. Another eight key dates also were rained on; weekends, Thanksgiving, the last night for Santa Claus, which deterred a lot of guests from visiting the park. Despite this, the nice weather that did occur brought in hundreds of visitors.
Winterfest of Lights has a different layout each year to keep excursions fresh for returning visitors. Riders are challenged to find their favorite displays in new locations. The city’s crew began setup in early October to transform the park into a winter wonderland.
“I really was expecting it to be a down year based on how it was trending for the first three quarters of the event duration,” Miller said. “It just goes to show you how much people really care about this and enjoy the Winterfest of Lights and we’re so thankful for that continued support that the community gives us.”
In 2017, despite the colder temperatures of late fall and early winter, 109,210 passengers rode through the Winterfest of Lights from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31 at Northside Park.