POSTED: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 2:49pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 5:22pm
Longview, TX (Longview News Journal) — The City of Marshall's 26th Annual Wonderland of Lights Festivals kicks off Wednesday with a ceremony in front of the Harrison County Courthouse at 5:30 p.m. The lights on the courthouse won't be turned on until 6:13 p.m.
Ed Michel, executive director of the Marshall Convention and Visitors Bureau, said several Wonderland activities will start at 4 p.m.
A red English-style double-decker bus will take people on tours while carriage rides, complete with top-hat wearing chauffeurs, will provide open-air rides around the square.
Then there is the ice-skating rink.
"The ice-skating rink is probably one of the most popular attractions," he said. "Also, we'll have what we're calling The Marshall Mountain, which is a giant slide."
In addition to some of the staple attractions, the festival will include some new activities and areas, including the The Polar Challenge, which is an interactive obstacle course, Michel said.
Michel also said there will be a new area for children ages 10 and younger.
"The North Pole Play Land is also all brand new," he said. "It's an elves workshop. We have animated elves that show what the elves do when they're getting ready for Christmas."
The area also will feature a bounce house and a trackless train to take children on rides around the block.
Some aspects of the festival are getting an upgrade this year, such as the nightly music and light shows, where the Courthouse lights flicker in synchronization with music.
"They've had it in years past, but we've expanded," said Michel. "Before they just synchronized one song. Now every show we do will have two pieces of music and will last 7 to 9 minutes each time. We have 28 different pieces of music that will be used over the course of the 40 days."
The festival also will feature a live music performance every night at 7 p.m.
Michel said he's expecting between 2,000 and 3,000 people Wednesday night, and he hopes about 150,000 people will view the Wonderland of Lights over the course of the festival.
He said a new ticketing system is in place.
"We'll be able to tell where everyone who buys a ticket is from," he said. "In the past, we've had no idea where people are coming from. Now we'll be able to tell, and see if it's worth all the money we put into it every year."
Admission for a child into "The North Pole Play Land" is $10.
"The best value we're doing is $59 up through (November) the 21st where people can buy a season pass," Michel said. "Then they can go skating and ride all the rides."
Tickets are available on www.visitmarshalltexas.org .