’Twas the night before the Festival of Lights closed and three members of a local Masonic lodge were braving the cold to volunteer.
Nonprofits that work the festival collect donations that are split between the nonprofit and the Ardmore Parks and Recreation Department, who stages the festival, with most of the money going to the department. Nonprofits draw straws to determine who gets what nights, which Justin White, next year’s lodge master for Ardmore Masonic Lodge 31, said makes a world of difference.
“This benefits our lodge just like it benefits the city,” White said. “And we’re in dire straits right now, money-wise.”
White said membership at the
Ardmore lodge has dwindled over time, and with it, the money from membership dues. The organization also skews older. White, who is 26, is one of the youngest members. He said the group had more volunteers working on less frigid nights of the festival.
“We have a lot of elderly people in the lodge, it’s harder for them to make it out when it’s cold or raining,” White said. “Normally we do have more volunteers, but we’re not going to ask them out here in the weather.”
White said the money raised at the festival will be used for local projects throughout the year.
“We’ll get a certain amount every year from the grand lodge we can spend, and then we’ll have a general operating fund,” White said. “Say someone comes in that needs money raised for a certain purpose, all someone has to do is come forward, the lodge will vote on it, and we can pull that money out of our funds.”
White said the nights can vary wildly. The lodge volunteers worked Thanksgiving, which brought in some guests, but another weekend in December was consistently slow and only raised $200 total.
“I think we got $40 from that whole night,” White said. “It really just depends. We’ve had some great nights.”
Lee Gothard, an equipment operator with the Parks and Recreation Department, was on duty checking on the displays and making small repairs as the night went on.
“It’s running really smoothly,” Gothard said. “We’ve had some that the wind knocked over, but we’re able to put them back up. It’s nothing you don’t expect.”
He said from night to night, the attraction seems slightly busier than last year.
“It just depends,” Gothard said. “You have holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving where you have a good flow, and most of the nights it stays pretty steady.”
Older displays have been updated with LED lights, and some new set pieces were LED to begin with. Gothard said he estimates about 12 of the more than 100 displays are fully comprised of LED bulbs.