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Winter WonderFest off to great start before grand opening Nov. 17-19

November 10, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like a really good Christmas for this year's Winter WonderFest. Festival of Cheer Inc., the nonprofit producing organization for the expanding Sussex County fundraising event, with the installation of the new Visit Delaware Ice Skating Rink, the expanded lighting displays and the bigger Christmas Village on schedule.

"We're amazed at the increased enthusiasm from the local business community," reports Peter Briccotto, executive producer for Winter WonderFest. "Thanks to our generous sponsor contributions, plus the extraordinary amount of donated professional services, we've already achieved $435,000 of support.

"Lighting the light displays. Keeping the ice rink frozen. Running the carnival rides. It all adds up," says Briccotto. "This year, 98 generous sponsors are contributing their support. We'd love to reach 100." The 2016 inaugural year proved successful by raising $150,000. From that, $100,000 in community grants were awarded to 17 nonprofit organizations throughout Sussex County. Briccotto notes that the balance was reinvested into producing this year's event to add more light displays and to expand the Christmas Village midway with more rides and games. There's also a new hospitality lodge sponsored by Lewes' Crooked Hammock Brewery where visitors can hang out and warm up.

This year, Winter WonderFest is bigger and brighter in response to community input. "And it's much cooler, too!" says Briccotto, acknowledging the event's partnership with the state's tourism division which is making the Visit Delaware Ice Skating Rink a reality for locals and visitors this holiday season.

"Right now we're concentrating on getting open," says John Snow, Festival of Cheer president. “We have expanded our grand opening event, Dashing through The Show, into three days. Last year we sold out our one-day Fun Walk & Run, so this year more people will have an opportunity to see the lights up close before vehicle tours begin Thanksgiving weekend."

Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17-18: Dashing through the Show - a fun one-mile walk through the Light Spectacular holiday light display at Cape Henlopen State Park. Participants meet at the Christmas Village. Gates open 4 p.m. Start time 5 p.m. Free shuttle service.

Sunday, Nov. 19:  Competitive 5K Run-Walk. Gates open at 4 p.m. Start time 5 p.m. Barking through the Show start time 6 p.m. Furry friends on a leash are welcome to take their owners for a walk through the show! Sunday's participants meet at Cape Henlopen State Park.

Briccotto urges participants to register now, in advance, to get their preferred day. "We may not be able to accommodate everyone's preference without a preregistration on the day of the race," he said. Information and registration for Dashing through the Show are available at wonderfestde.org; information is also online for advance tickets and for those who want to volunteer for Winter WonderFest.

Visitors may also call the Winter WonderFest Box Office at 302-727-0221. Box office hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.