By Calista Giannonatti
Record temperatures on Friday helped Storybook Island come close to beating a record themselves. With a high of almost 70 degrees, Storybook Island was packed from the time the gates opened to the time they closed. And, as they began the evening with only seven volunteers, they had their worked cut out for them.
Before even opening the gates, the line of people of all ages reached the parking lot, and at times, went beyond. Quickly, the staff realized that one admission line wasn’t going to be enough and they were forced to open two. “It was crazy, I’ve never seen so many people here at once,” a volunteer at admission said. “It was hard to keep everything organized at times; it was a good thing we had two to three people to each admission line.”
At the end of the night more than 4,200 people walked through the gate to enjoy the lights. “It has to be close to a record,” Connie LeZotte, one of the owners and managers at Storybook Island claims. “Not only was it warm weather for December, but we also have a little more to offer now.”
And she’s right. Starting that night, Santa and his reindeer joined the park, which is why many children and adults stood in a line that wrapped around multiple sets to see Santa, who was seated just outside the gift shop. Then, by the train station, everyone gathered to see Comet and Cupid, Santa’s helpers on Christmas Eve. Plus, if anyone got a little cold, they could get a cup of hot chocolate at the ice cream shop.
It wasn’t until about 7:50 p.m. that the volunteers at the front gates noticed a change. “We finally had a few breaks. And instead of sitting down and resting our feet, we were busy organizing everything,” a second volunteer claimed. But with almost 3,000 people in the park and closing time getting closer, they had to start turning people away. “I had to leave the stand and stand outside and tell people that they couldn’t come in anymore. I’m pretty sure I made a lot of people upset, and I got some nasty looks.”
True, many people did want to go in and sees the lights, but it was a chore itself to get that many people out. After about ten announcements in ten minutes, they were able to clear everybody from the park. Despite the challenges, they hope for another night like it. “We brought in a lot of money tonight, hopefully we will get a few more nights like this,” said Chris DiMaira, a second owner/manager at Storybook Island.
Storybook Island gates are open every night from 5:30 to 8:30 through the New Year, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Santa and his reindeer will be there through the 23rd. This is a great fundraiser for Storybook Island, so grab your kids and your friend’s kids and go see the beautiful lights.
As mentioned, they can start sending people away before gates close, so do arrive with plenty of time beforehand to walk through the park.