A new holiday experience has come to Delaware, through Decorating Delmarva: A Holiday Festival of Lights.
The 36-night event consists of six major destinations on a two-mile drive on the Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, through an animated tour of the North Pole, including holiday lights and community-built displays.
“I worked in the motor sports industry for about 20 years, and part of that was down in Bristol, Tenn. We were involved with a speedway children’s charity down there, where we did the same type of event,” explained Mark Cathell, president of Create 1 Marketing. He said he wanted to create an event that would tie in to the community. “I took my experience from that, created a new concept, and, from there, developed this 36-night, two-mile tour at the speedway here in Delmar.”
Decorating Delmarva is open every night — excluding Dec. 24 — through Jan. 5. Admission costs $15 per carload, for up to eight people, and the money raised goes to supporting Delmarva schools and charities.
Participating schools will receive $5 from every ticket they sell. Schools also participate in contests: a coloring contest, a tree-decorating contest and a display-decorating contest.
“Visitors receive a ballot when they enter the gate,” explained Cathell. “When they drive through, they’ll have the opportunity to vote for what display they like the best. We have an FM transmitter — when you pull up, you put your radio to 88.9 and listen to Christmas music as you ride through.”
Elementary- and middle-school winners will receive a $2,500 prize, and the high-school winner will receive $5,000. To raise more money for the event, the Christmas trees donated by Rommel Ace group and decorated by middle schools will be auctioned off on Dec. 23.
Participating nonprofits and area charities, including Camp Barnes, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity and the Boys & Girls Club of Delmarva will also have the chance to win $5,000 for their organizations.
Following the two-mile drive, cars can park and enter Santa’s Village, for extra holiday fun.
“At the end, we have a Santa’s Village, where people can park and go into a huge building where we have vendors and businesses and arts and crafts set up. You can get your picture taken with Santa Claus. We have an entertainment area with a magician and a kids’ show. We have food vendors and Taylor Brother Amusements, with rides for kids and adults to enjoy, as well.”
Cathell said the endeavor has been two years in the planning and 13 months in preparation, and could not have been possible without the help of sponsors.
“It’s taken a lot of volunteers and support people,” he said.
Cathell said this is the first of many years for the event, as Create 1 Marketing has a five-year contract with the speedway. He added that he hopes people from all over Delmarva will drive through the display and help support local organizations.
“Just a lot of fun things going on,” he said. “It’s just a great night out of family fun for everyone.”
For more information, visit www.decoratingdelmarva.com. Decorating Delmarva is located at the Delaware International Speedway at 37854 Sussex Highway in Delmar.