Though thousands of spectators visited the Festival of Lights each year, thousands of dollars were lost putting on the holiday tradition.
Doug Johnson, director of Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry, estimated that the city of Aberdeen spent $15,000 to $16,000 in employee wages to put on the holiday festival during the winter season. On average, the event would bring in about $6,000 per year after expenses, such as electricity and repairs, were subtracted.
Johnson said city employees worked 1,200 to 1,300 hours last year erecting, wiring and maintaining the displays. The hours included snow removal to roads in and around the lighted units.
"It is a pretty massive effort to make it happen," Johnson said. "When we put a dollar amount on the hours it takes, it gets expensive."
The city partnered with the Aberdeen Sertoma Club to put on the Festival of Lights for its 11 years.
The event, which kicked off after Thanksgiving and continued for 30 days after, usually had more than 40 large displays, most of which contained several elements. An average of 1,700 vehicles per season would drive through the park with most of them having multiple passengers, Johnson said. The $5 entrance fee per vehicle was collected by Sertoma members for Storybook Land improvements.
Johnson said he had to also consider the increased time city workers now spend on taking care of the ice for the Aberdeen Wings. City workers must balance their time between many duties, he said.
In addition, many of the structures were getting near the end of their usefulness.
"The majority of the displays were purchased through the Temple company," Johnson said. "The company says they should last 10 years. Most of them were purchased in 2001 and many of them need replacing."
Nate Zeeb, Sertoma club president, said, "The decision to stop the festival was not an easy one. When club members looked at the amount of time and money spent on the event we decided our resources could be better allocated to other club projects."
Members helped erect the displays on two weekends in November and volunteered at the entrance to collect fees. Members also organized special events at the park in conjunction with the festival.
"People have enjoyed the displays and a lot of families, including my own, made it a holiday tradition," Zeeb said. "We thank everyone who made it possible."
The Sertoma Club has been discussing alternative events to replace the Festival of Lights, but nothing has been decided, he said.
Johnson said the parks and recreation department will focus on more events for Storybook Land in the summer.