By MIKE CHAIKEN
As soon as you walk through the tunnel that takes you into the front entrance of Lake Compounce Amusement Park in Bristol, you can’t miss it.
Right in front of you, with blazing white lights and shiny red holiday bulbs, a 100-foot tree greets you as you arrive for the park’s annual “Holiday Lights” event.
The tree is the latest attraction for the park, which is marking its fourth year with its holiday offering.
“We wanted to do something that would give us a presence,” said the park’s general manager Gerry Brick at a sneak preview for press. “It’s not too often that you get to put in a 100-foot tree.”
Brick said the tree, which was manufactured in Portland Ore., is built on a steel frame. “It took us a crew of 10 people, some cranes, and lifts. It took us about two weeks to put it together,” said Brick.
“We were kind of excited to do it,” said Brick of the tree, which has thousands of lights and holiday decorations. “Where it is right now, when people walk in, it’s going to have that visual impact. You can see it from the road. You can see it from all areas of the park.”
Before the tree was secured for the Connecticut amusement park, Brick said he had seen similar trees from the manufacturr placed in towns across the country. “It was impressive.”
Press materials for the amusement park said there will be a ceremonial lighting of the tree each night at 5 p.m. And each night, the light switch will be thrown by a guest at the park.
Brick said the first two years of the “Holiday Lights” attraction have been successful for the amusement, despite Mother Nature’s machinations. There has been some growth in the numbers of guests, said Brick. The number of guests aren’t the same as they would be in the summer, he said. But it’s also a smaller park. Many of the rides open for “Holiday Lights” are geared toward children and families.
But, he said, the attraction also accomplished something else for Lake Compounce. It keeps the park operational during a time of the year where it normally would have been shuttered, he explained. Additionally, he said, it attracts families to the park, which is its core market.
“Families are coming in watching the lights, seeing Santa, watching the ice carvers,” said Brick. “It’s a real neat event for people.”
In addition to the tree, Brick said the amusement park has added an additional holiday light show, similar to the one offered at the main gate area that goes off every half hour. The second light show is by the dinosaur area of the park.
The “Holiday Lights” event also features The Train, which has been transformed into the North Pole Railway, operated by a uniformed train conductor with a magical holiday story to tell. There are indoor activities such as cookie decorating, letters to Santa, and gingerbread house making. On the Kiddieland stage, children will enjoy Mrs. Claus’s Story Time. There will be carolers strolling throughout the park, clowns making balloon animals, and holiday characters greeting guests. Santa also will be available for photographs with the children at the Winter Wonderland Starlight Theatre.
Right now, Brick said, the park has not been marketing the event outside of Connecticut. What efforts there have been have been through social media. That may change in the future, he said.
“We’re trying to grow within the state and then move out (beyond Connecticut’s borders),” said Brick.
The park gates will open at 5 p.m. on Fridays, and at 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and close at 9 p.m. The event is offered until Dec. 20.
Admission is $15.99 plus tax per adult, $11.99 plus tax for children 4 thru 10, and free for children 3 and under.
For information, go to LakeCompounce.com
By MIKE CHAIKEN