With many thanks to sponsors and area residents, the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce is able to announce a record-breaking year for the Festival of Lights auction.

Chamber president Mita Bates says nearly $26,000 was raised at the auction, breaking previous records. $25,400 has been collected to date, with some items not claimed.

"It's not unusual, because people don't necessarily know they won a bid," Bates explains. She also adds the announced figure does not include sponsorships or donations.

"It's the most we have ever had," she says. "We have developed a very loyal group of supporters for this event. We get quality items for the auction, and people use those items to kick off the holiday shopping season."

Bates says toys and electronics have been particularly popular items at the auction, from which proceeds have helped make the lighting display highly acclaimed.

"We now have over 125 lighted displays," she reports. "We continue to change them out and upgrade them each year, which is an ongoing expense."

This year, those expenses included adding an electrical line to provide enough power for the displays. Rent is also paid on the lifts used to set up the displays.

"We spent $7,000 to $8,000 this year on electrical infrastructure as well as the electrical upkeep on the displays," Bates says. "We also spent $3,200 on light bulbs this year.

"Some years, we don't spend as much on maintenance, and perhaps next year, the expenses will not be as great. But there will always be ongoing maintenance costs."

Bates credits several entities, including the Ardmore Parks and Recreation staff, city of Ardmore, Ardmore Tourism Authority, Regional Park Trust Authority and chamber staff for forming a successful partnership in promoting the attraction.

"We are known as the premier Christmas drive-through in southern Oklahoma and north Texas," Bates says. "Weather permitting, we will exceed 80,000 visitors this year."

The Festival of Lights will also benefit the 19 non-profit organizations that collect donations. The organizations split up 20 percent of the pot. And it is made possible through the hard work of the Ardmore Parks and Recreation staff.

"They do an outstanding job," Bates praises. "They put the displays up and are there every night to make sure the displays are working."