In one fell swoop, a major seasonal tourist attraction was created at Stone Hedge Golf Course.
For a little over month - starting on Black Friday and ending Dec. 29, participants were bedazzled by the Festival of Lights, rivaling light festivals created in many larger metropolitan areas.
People driving along the two-mile route along the bottom nine holes of the golf course were treated to a vast arrange of approximately two million LED bulbs on 16,000 strings of electrical wire. Displays ranged from dinosaurs, toys, candy, Christmas and historical scenes, under the sea themes, and much more.
“It was awesome,” said Karen Force, who along with Stone Hedge owner William Ruark, put together the Festival of Lights. “The response of from the people is fantastic.”
Force could not provide a figure of exactly how many cars went through, but is certain thousands of people participated in the festival.
“People came from as far as over two hours away,” she said.
She pointed out that the Festival of Lights received ‘likes’ on Facebook - all of them five-star ratings.
“This definitely helped to offset the cost,” she explained.
Following months of careful planning, which included creating the patterns, workers at Stone Hedge began stringing the lights in October, completing the job right before the festival opened. Ruark worked out the logistics of the paths, while Force oversaw the creation of all the designs.
“It took five weeks, with 10 people easily working 40 hours a week,” Force explained.
Grounds keepers who would normally be laid off at the end of the golf season were kept on at Stone Hedge, working to string the lights and see that things ran smoothly while the festival was in operation.
The new tourist attraction has already had a positive economic impact on the area. Many who came saw Stone Hedge for the first time, and became aware of the many services it offers. According to Stone Hedge General Manager Mike Bender in addition to golf, people can use Stone Hedge’s facilities for weddings and other similar events.
Force said Ruth Remington, owner of Remington’s Restaurant in Tunkhannock, informed her that business picked up during the Festival of Lights.
“People went there before and afterward to eat,” Force explained.
Charlie Stockage, manager of Perkins Restaurant, located on Route 6 in Tunkhannock, also reported an increase in customers during the Festival of Lights.
Now the lights and stings are being taken down and put into storage. Many of the grounds keepers will continue to be busy with the project until March, when the golf season will resume.
Asked if the Festival of Lights will be back, Force replied: “Yes, definitely. And it will be bigger and better.”
Force could not predict exactly what new displays will be added at this time - because it is too soon to get into specifics.
But she did say that everything went so smoothly in 2017, it will not be necessary to make any changes in the routine when the festival resumes in 2018.
“It will evolve as we go along year by year,” Force said. “Bill (Ruark) said this is the only thing he’s ever done that made everyone involved happy.”
Force said she also thanks the community for being so supportive of the Festival of Lights.
“It was a blast to set up, and now we’re glad that it’s ended,” she said.