Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Starry Nights-It's Back and It's Green!

From today's CA...

Drive-through holiday lights show returns to Shelby Farms; Energy-efficient lights will shine for revived Starry Nights
By Kevin McKenzie

After 10 years without a twinkle, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is reviving the Starry Nights holiday light show at Shelby Farms Park this year, using about 1.5 million energy-efficient lights.

With Santa Claus on the stage, Rick Masson, executive director of the park conservancy, announced Monday at Agricenter International that the drive-through holiday light show is coming back from Nov. 27 to Jan. 2.

MIFA, a Memphis nonprofit group that distributes food and other services created Starry Nights and ran it from 1994-99.

"We're becoming a county that is really for the children," said Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton, who earlier in the morning had appeared at a Head Start function.

The park conservancy, which two years ago contracted with Shelby County government to manage and plan for the park, has received requests to bring back Starry Nights, Masson said.

It will be a winter fundraiser for the nonprofit conservancy and has a three-year budget of roughly $500,000, with displays and other capital costs taking the biggest bite the first year, he said.

First Tennessee Bank has agreed to become a co-presenter of the event, although the bank's contribution is still under negotiation, Masson said.

"These are difficult times," Charles Burkett, president of banking at First Tennessee, said at the announcement.

Picking up on Wharton's theme, Burkett said "anything we can do to make Christmas a little better, a little brighter for the children."

Starry Nights displays, including environmental and nature as well as holiday themes, will use LED, or light-emitting diode lights.

They consume about 5 watts of electricity for each string of lights, compared with 35 watts for regular Christmas lights, said Monte DePouw, principal of DePouw Engineering, a Germantown electrical design firm involved with the project.

That will reduce the power used by more than 85 percent. The light bill will be about $1,500, DePouw said.

A gift shop and holiday village will be added, and special nights on designated Monday evenings will be scheduled for viewing the show by walking or bicycling and other events.

Ellen Westbrook, who helped create the show at MIFA and is the volunteer chairwoman this year, said a separate entrance and facilities for groups will provide an infrastructure for holiday gatherings.

"We have all the infrastructure now," Westbrook said. "We never had it before."

Kevin Kane, president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that at its peak, Starry Nights attracted more than 100,000 people in about five weeks.

A Starry Nights musical soundtrack featuring local musicians will be crafted. Dean Deyo, president of the Memphis Music Foundation is coordinating that.

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