Last year's first Egg Harbor Township PAL Winter Festival, with its ambitious light show, was a big success, surpassing visitors' expectations in scope and spectacle.

While the bar set by last year's event will be difficult to top, organizers are confident the 2012 festival will surpass the first.

"Everybody that came was impressed with what they saw. It wasn't what they were expecting, in a good way - they weren't expecting it to be as good as it was," said Bargaintown's Jeff Wargo, an engineer at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center and lead designer of this year's light show. "This year, we added some additional lights and a few other elements, and it should be at least as nice this year, if not nicer."

The Winter Festival will be held at the Egg Harbor Township PAL ready-to-ride center at 2590 Ridge Ave. Fridays through Sundays in December from 6-9 p.m. starting Dec. 14. Attractions include crafts for kids, pictures and a live Nativity scene, featuring camel rides, on Dec. 16 and 23. Admission is free. Proceeds from the event go to support PAL holiday programs for kids.

As with last year, the main attraction is a light show set to music that spans a large area of the park. Shows will be held hourly, and while they've been cut down to about 10 minutes from last year's 20, the engineers have programmed two different, alternating sets.

The combination of fun holiday activities and the show-stopping light array will again make the festival a compelling night out for local families, PAL Executive Director Hector Tavarez said.

"If you've seen the synchronized light shows on houses set to music, this is that times 10," Tavarez said. "Add to that the fact we have arts and crafts and a live Nativity scene and a visit with Santa, and it should be an extremely affordable night out for a family."

This year's light show will be an impressive feat considering the setbacks due to Hurricane Sandy. The ready-to-ride center suffered severe damage during the storm, forcing a four-week cleanup and postponing the opening of the festival to the middle of the month.

Additionally, cleanup costs have cut into the event budget, and several volunteers who had planned to help stage the event had to back out to do cleanups of their own.

In Tavarez's eyes, though, these hardships only serve to make watching the event unfold that much sweeter.

"I think anytime the volunteers can get together and put together something that is this difficult and this challenging and make it look as impressive as we do, I'm always excited about that," Tavarez said.

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7415