Holiday lights show sees record attendance

Officials are hopeful that record attendance for the past Christmas season’s Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends display in Regional Park might be a forecast of success for several upcoming activities.

Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Greg Gustek, speaking Wednesday at a joint meeting of the city’s Civic Auditorium Complex and Advertising and Tourist Promotion commissions, said some 110,000 persons rode through the park to see the state’s largest holiday lighting show.

“Even with having to close on Christmas night because of the winter storm and losing another night that week due to an electrical outage, we had a record year,” Gustek said. “We had record attendance, a record amount of donations, a record number of sponsors and displays, and we sold every one of our ornaments.”

Similar displays in other cities across the country are failing, said Pine Bluff Convention Center Executive Director Bob Purvis. Gustek said he thinks a major difference between the local show and those elsewhere may be “the great sponsors here.”

Upcoming events include:

RAILROADIANA SHOW AND SALE — Saturday, April 6, at the Arkansas Railroad Museum. Purvis said the event, now in its 18th year, typically attracts railroad enthusiasts from across the nation and Canada and has even recorded visitors from Japan and other overseas countries.

HARBOR CITY FESTIVAL AND COOK-OFF — Saturday, April 27, at Saracen Landing. The festival includes live music and features a Kid Zone. Gumbo and catfish tops the food menu.

BUSINESS EXPO — Thursday, May 2, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. There will be a slight schedule change following a kick-off breakfast. The Expo will be open to businesses from 9 to 11 a.m. and then to the general public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

OPERATION SKYHOOK — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 24, 25 and 26. The Black Pilots of America are returning to thier home base — the newly remodeled Grider Field — for a Memorial Day Weekend air show. In addition to competition flying among the professionals, children can become “Young Eagles” with free plane rides.

Recent activities for convention and visitors bureau staffers include Visitor and Group Tour Coordinator Susie Madsen’s participation in the American Bus Association Market Place Show in Charlotte, N.C.; the Tennessee Motor Coach Association Trade Show in Knoxville; the Bank Travel Show in Virginia Beach, Va.; and the Travel South Showcase in Little Rock.

Gustek, Madsen, Purvis and Marketing and Events Director Sheri Storie attended the 39th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Hot Springs.

To be inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame on June 8 in Hot Springs will be Gary Weir (local television’s Bozo the Clown), session musician and record producer Louie Shelton, music industry manager Bill Carter and singer Rosetta Tharpe, hailed as “the original soul sister.”

During a business session, commissioners unanimously approved a 2012 joint audit conducted by Alan K. Minor, a Pine Bluff certified public accountant.