When Lights of Hope Director Ben Phillips announced recently that he was selling the popular Christmas light display, many in Anderson, South Carolina, feared that this would be the end of a 22-year-long tradition. Fortunately, two volunteers, Kara Danowski and Nettie Griffin, have stepped up to ensure that the 2016 Christmas display will go forward as normal.
Phillips, who took over the show in 2005 along with Dennis Lavold, has been searching for a buyer for the light show since January but only recently made the decision public. Phillips says the decision was difficult but that other commitments and changes in his personal life did not leave enough time to devote to the show. Phillips will be marrying his fiancé, Lights of Hope board member Bonnie Ginepro this fall. Ginepro has also accepted a new job, which will require the couple to relocate to Duncan. Lavold plans to spend time traveling and visiting his grandchildren. At the time of the initial announcement, Phillips said that deciding to sell the light show felt like losing a member of the family.
Danowski and Griffin have both volunteered for the show for several years and were saddened at the prospect of such a cherished community tradition coming to an end. Danowski and Griffin will have lots of support during their maiden attempt at running the show. Phillips will assist them in obtaining sponsorships and marketing the show while Lavold will help set up the display. Since taking over management of the event, Danowski and Griffin have established a new website for the show and are planning a few surprise changes to the Santa’s Village portion of the display.
Currently, Danowski and Griffin only plan to run the show for this year, but there are hopes that they may change their minds and buy the show. The lights, which are on loan from Phillips and Lavold, are still for sale. Phillips states they do have a couple of interested buyers but that any sale has been pushed back until next year. Phillips stated previously that he hopes to find someone local to take over the show.
The Lights of Hope Christmas display is a major undertaking taking upwards of 1,200 volunteer hours and several months to set up. Proceeds from the show go to support various local charities and agencies. Without the funds generated by the light show, these agencies may not have been able to provide vital services for those in need in the Anderson community.