MATTOON -- Tuesday evening, Mattoon Lightworks concluded for the season after having raised a record level of donations to support this annual display of Christmas lighting at Peterson Park.
Entry to Lightworks is always free, but those who drive through can make donations as they exit. City Parks & Recreation Superintendent Kurt Stretch said Lightworks had raised nearly $30,000 by the end of the night Monday, Christmas Day, and was on track to continue collecting donations Tuesday. He said the 2017 figures topped last year's donation total of about $26,000 and set a new fundraising record for Lightworks.
"That will be a good milestone for us. Lighworks has really grown a lot in the last few years," Stretch said. He noted that the 2013 Lightworks raised approximately $18,000.
A total of 17,689 vehicles had driven through this year's Lightworks by the end of the night Monday, Stretch said. He estimated that once Lightworks concluded Tuesday evening, it would probably top last year's attendance figure of 17,878 vehicles. He said attendance has been increasing steadily in recent years, noting that the event tallied 15,192 vehicles in 2013.
Stretch said the proceeds from the 26th annual Lightworks will help the city purchase approximately 10,000 energy efficient LED light bulbs for next year's event. He said many of the LED bulbs will be used to create displays for the waiting list of new sponsors who want to add to Lightworks' attractions. Sponsored displays are an additional source of funding for Lightworks.
"There are a lot of people wanting in for Lightworks for next year," Stretch said.
Many of the LED bulbs also will be installed in Christmas lighting displays that the former General Electrical Mattoon Lamp Plant donated to Lightworks, Stretch said. Some of the GE displays were incorporated into Lightworks and also into the city's downtown lighting this year. Stretch said he hopes to put out the remainder of the GE displays next year after they are affixed with LED bulbs.
In addition, Stretch said he plans to work with downtown merchants to increase the Christmas lighting next year in the city's Heritage Park at Broadway Avenue and 17th Street. Heritage Park has become a focal point during the annual Celebrate Downtown Mattoon Christmas festival. Stretch said the city may set up lighted walkway arches at Heritage Park like the ones in front of the Peterson House.
"I am here to help them and assist them with whatever they need to do down there," Stretch said of the merchants.