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Wonderland plans, construction nearly ready for season

By Naomi Prioleau
Oct. 9, 2012 at 10 p.m.


With only 40 days left until this year's Wonderland of Lights Festival, budget and construction plans are becoming more definite.

At the board of directors meeting for the Convention and Visitors Bureau on Tuesday, Executive Director Ed Michel detailed the behind-the-scenes plans for the annual festival which begins Nov. 21.

Among the items discussed were sponsorships, marketing, Wonderland Village, the ice skating rink, the new ticketing system, weather insurance, the opening ceremony and courthouse lighting.

Ten buildings are currently under construction for the festival which include: the ticket booth, the Elf's workshop, the train station, the photo hut and spaces for six vendors.

The main color for the festival is a gingerbread color but each building will have a color scheme consisting of four different colors.

Rather than using normal barricades, this year blue water barrels with snowflakes on them will serve as barriers on the highway.

Other things being built are the 42 toy soldiers that should be ready to march by this afternoon, the Snowflake rocking horse, on which construction will start by the end of the week, the Washington Square stage, and benches to seat 100 in front of the stage.

One thing that Michel is very pleased with is the increase in sponsorships over the past few months.

"One of the numbers I'm really happy about is our sponsorship numbers," Michel said. "In the original budget we proposed for Wonderland back in February, it showed a budget of $68,000 in the budget that we did and voted on last month its showing $83,000. Right now it's almost $92,000."

An increase in sponsorships allows for CVB to develop a thorough marketing plan that will take the Wonderland of Lights to different cities through press tours.

The marketing campaign for the event will include mailing 1,400 flyers to churches, 600 flyers to companies with more than 100 employees and 16,000 flyers to households in Harrison County starting in November.

The bureau has selected a production company in Shreveport to develop TV ads and have spots in Dallas and Shreveport.

The press tour for the event, starting Nov. 12, would begin in Oklahoma City and go to Wichita Falls, Dallas and Shreveport. If it's within the budget, CVB is interested in buying time on Good Morning America in Dallas.

One expense that may be out of the budget is weather insurance. CVB has until Nov. 20 to buy it. The insurance plan is based on what days and what hours of said day it is needed for, but the cost can run up to $10,000.

Some members of the board expressed hesitance in using weather insurance especially if they want to stay within the budget.

"We've used it for four years, for two years it paid off in doing it," director of visitor services Geraldine Mauthe said. "In two years we've just contributed money."

A new online ticketing system has also been implemented. The website sold its first tickets last Saturday night. Buying tickets online can be accessed at visitmarshallmarshalltexas.org and clicking "Buy Festival Tickets Online" under the Wonderland of Lights Festival drop-down menu.

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