Fundraiser donates 100% of profits
By Maddie Laurie
Photograph coutesy of Winter WonderFest
From the Winter 2022 issue
As in winters past, tens of thousands of people from across Delaware and beyond are expected to visit Hudson Fields near Milton this year to immerse themselves in the sparkling colors of the holiday season. More than a mile of light displays, featuring six dozen classic holiday and “Small Wonder” Delaware-centric scenes, will light up the night during the seventh annual Winter WonderFest. An early evening New Year’s Eve fireworks show returns, as well.
Not only does the event’s “Light Spectacular” literally light up visitors’ eyes, but it’s also a dedicated effort to lift up the community.
Since its founding in 2016, the festival has raised and donated more than $235,000 to 27 area charities. This year, the awardees will be announced on Christmas Eve and celebrated on New Year’s Eve, Event Director Peter Briccotto says.
Over the years, organizers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the festival to make the infrastructure more permanent and the event self-sustaining. That investment means this year’s effort can be focused more on the community and increase the amount of grant funds available, organizers say.
Despite significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 fest allowed organizers to not only donate about $30,000 back to the community, but also make a sizeable investment in the electric infrastructure at the Milton-area venue, which also hosts the Nanticoke Indian Powwow, car shows and concerts. More than 50,000 people visit Winter WonderFest at Hudson Fields annually, and previously the event relied on generator rentals to power up the displays.
“They have done a great job of reinvesting in the permanent infrastructure, and we’ve added on over the years, as well,” says Christian Hudson, managing partner of Hudson Management. “It’s a great partnership. It’s just like a community: It takes everybody’s effort.”
While that infrastructure investment, also supported by the Delaware Electric Cooperative, means the festival is here to stay, the pandemic did pose another challenge: securing volunteers. People are still cautious about the coronavirus, but organizers say there are plenty of ways to help that don’t involve directly greeting thousands of people passing through.
Says John Snow, president of Festival of Cheer, the nonprofit that organizes Winter WonderFest, “The pandemic taught [us] to focus on what matters most … expanding our Light Spectacular experience, and increasing our investments in the community.”
— Maddy Lauria
Plan Your Visit: Winter WonderFest runs from 5 to 10 p.m. each night through Saturday, Dec. 31. In addition to the drive-through option, the event will also feature hayrides with hot chocolate and cookies, which can be purchased in advance or at the gate. On New Year’s Eve, a fireworks show will begin at about 6:30 p.m.
For directions and more details about the Winter WonderFest, including volunteer opportunities, visit wonderfestde.org.