By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Midwest City had a little extra holiday spirit this season.
The Holiday Lights Spectacular drive-thru display saw a boost in attendance with 15,773 vehicles visiting last month.
Attendance increased by 2,375 vehicles or more than 17.7% compared to 2022. It was up slightly over 2021 numbers, according to city officials.
Holiday Lights Spectacular was open nightly from Dec. 1 -25 at Joe B. Barnes Regional Park. The city also added new lights at W.P. Bill Atkinson and Charles J. Johnson Parks near Town Center.
Josh Ryan, communications and marketing director for Midwest City, believes the boost in attendance was due to new light displays at the park and increased promotion and outreach by city staff.
“We put up some new displays at Regional Park and new lighting at WP Bill Atkinson Park and Charles J. Johnson Park and I think that created a little bit of a buzz,” Ryan said. “We also did more videos and outreach on social media than in the past.”
One of the new displays paid tribute to Joe Patterson, a longtime city employee who passed away last year. Patterson worked as a park project supervisor and with the public works department. He was the “heart and soul” of the Holiday Lights Spectacular for many years. The new display includes a snowman driving Joe’s old pickup truck with a string of lights in the back. The storage building for the lights was also renamed “Joe’s Light Barn.”
Ryan said attendance was steady throughout the season. They typically saw about 450 vehicles during the weeknights and more on the weekends.
“The fun part of it is that people make the lights part of their family holiday traditions,” Ryan said. “Some people will drive through multiple times.”
Midwest City canceled the Light the City kickoff event on Nov. 30 due to weather. The opening night was the only time the display was to be open to pedestrians. Ryan said they did not want to reschedule the event and create confusion for those planning to attend the drive-thru display. The city added more nights for walkers in 2022, but it was not popular and created confusion for drivers, Ryan said.
“Some people were disappointed that Light the City was not rescheduled but we had already been advertising the drive-thru schedule and didn’t want to create confusion,” Ryan said. “During the walking nights in 2022, we often turned away more cars than we had people walking through.”
Ryan said they will continue working to improve the drive-thru display at Regional Park and pedestrian experience at Town Center Plaza.
The city received a grant from the Memorial Hospital Authority to purchase some of the new lights for this past year. Donations collected at the lights help offset a small portion of the costs, Ryan said.