Gulfport's first Harbor Lights Festival exceeds expectations - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport's first Harbor Lights Festival exceeds expectations

An elaborate light display that launched in Gulfport over the weekend was a success. (Photo source: WLOX) An elaborate light display that launched in Gulfport over the weekend was a success. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

An elaborate light display that launched in Gulfport over the weekend has exceeded the city's expectations. A city spokesman said so far, the turnout for the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival has been overwhelming. 

Adding to the festivities this weekend will be Santa, Mrs. Claus and other fun, familiar characters.

Shenaria Locks enjoyed the festive decorations and whimsical characters while working at Jones Park Monday morning. Her next step is to walk with her 4-year-old son through the winter wonderland at night.

"They look very nice. Just waiting towards Christmas to bring my son out, me and my friend, because he likes to see the lights. This little ferris wheel, he's ready to get on that," said Locks.

Many families couldn't wait to see the largest Christmas light display in Mississippi. Over the weekend, they flocked to the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival to marvel at the shiny sculptures, some with thousands of lights twinkling to jolly tunes.

"Incredible. We couldn't have asked for a better response. We had over 5,000 people come through as far away as New Orleans, Mobile, Hattiesburg," said Gulfport spokesman Chris Vignes.

While the turnout for the festival was higher than expected, the general manager of Big Mike's SpeakEasy restaurant said he didn't see a big impact.

"We're right here across the street. We did get some business from it, but not as much as we anticipated. We do anticipate over the course of the display that we will increase in business," said Connie "Pokey" Bennett. 

The city expects the crowds to grow when Santa's Village sets up shop under Barksdale Pavilion over the next three weekends.

"They can look forward to train rides, carousels, decorating. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be here. You can take pictures with Rudolph and Frosty. It's going to be a blast. People will now know this is the place to come spend their Christmas holidays," said Vignes.

Santa's Village will be held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, ending on Dec. 19. The Harbor Lights display will be open nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Jan. 3. The cost is $5 a person and $20 per car. 

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