By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
WARM BEACH — There are many traditions at the Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center’s annual Lights of Christmas extravaganza, and now there may be a new one.
For three nights, the regular admission fees have been waived and anyone may attend on a “pay-what-you-can” basis.
The 16th annual event, featuring more than 1 million Christmas lights, entertainment, food, shopping and more, runs for 22 nights between Nov. 29 to Dec. 29.
The first donation-only night was opening night. The next two are today and the final night, Dec. 29.
Event organizers started the pay-what-you-can nights last year.
“We decided to do it because a lot of people can’t afford it, and we wanted them to have an opportunity to come and enjoy it anyway,” said Jo Reed, marketing coordinator for the Christian camp.
Admission prices are $15 for adults (ages 13-59); $10 for seniors and military; $9 for kids ages 4-12, and free for children age 3 and under. Parking is free.
Marisa McCoy of Marysville, who went with her husband and two young girls on opening night, liked the pay-what-you-can idea.
“It is pretty expensive to come with your whole family,” she said.
The camp roughly breaks even on the event, director of administration Pat Patterson said.
It costs several hundred thousand dollars per year to stage the Lights of Christmas, he said. The electricity bill during the holidays is about $12,000 to $15,000. About one-third of the lights are replaced every year at a cost of $8,000 to $10,000, Patterson said.
A seven-member crew works five days a week putting up lights from September until opening day. About 65 temporary employees are hired during the holiday in addition to the camp’s 35 full-time, year round staff, he said. The camp hires entertainers and staff for security and parking. The camp hasn’t counted the number of people who have taken advantage of these pay-what-you-can nights. So it’s unknown how many people have attended the nights last year or opening night this year, Reed said.
Still, the camp has received some positive comments, she said. Groups such as the Union Gospel Mission are among those who have attended on the pay-what-you-can nights.
“We’ve actually had a couple of people pay more,” she said. “That was really a neat spirit of giving.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.
If you go
The Warm Beach Camp is located at 20800 Marine Drive, south of Stanwood. For more information go to www.warmbeach.com/lights-of-christmas or call 360-652-7575.