The holiday season is a bright spot in the midst of pandemic resurgence

CUMBERLAND (AP) -- Businesses are investing in extravagant light shows and holiday cheer to brighten the darkness during the pandemic.

The holiday season is a bright spot in the midst of pandemic resurgence

More lights shows were launched from Maine to California during the pandemic. They're larger and more extravagant than ever with sparkling spectacles that Clark Griswold, the comic character in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", could only imagine.

They're expanding because people are searching for something to do. This has been a boom in this business," Wayne Wheeler, whose Wisconsin-based Reinders Inc. imports bulk lighting and other equipment used in professionally produced shows.

People drive through neighborhoods looking for colorful lights. This is a long-standing tradition during the holidays. Commercial operations are more sophisticated, using hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of twinkling light fixtures, synchronized music, animated props, and other glowing fixtures to create a WOW!

These shows are not monitored by any entity. Officials in the industry say that commercial light shows started popping up at fairgrounds, farms and zoos.

It turned out that it is safe to view shimmering outdoor lights from inside a vehicle or on foot, despite the rising incidence of COVID-19. Online ticketing is common, and tickets can also be scannable through the vehicle's windows.

The formula was a huge hit in Cumberland, Maine for Julie Lankford and Steve Lankford.

The Portland family sat in the back with their daughter, parents, and an enormous, stuffed Abominable Snowman.

Steve Lankford stated that COVID-19 strains are safe, particularly with all the variants.

His wife laughed and said, "And it's also warmer."

E.J., the creator of this event, said that he didn't necessarily set out to spread joy. Dean said that he didn’t set out to spread joy. After the pandemic almost wiped out his business, he just wanted to keep his employees employed. His company provides entertainment rides and games for agricultural fairs and outdoor festivals. All of these events were cancelled in 2020.

He had three holiday lighting events during the pandemic to keep him busy.

Dean, whose Fiesta Shows business is located in Seabrook, New Hampshire, said, "We were lucky and didn't put anyone off."

According to the Library of Congress, Thomas Edison, the inventor of lightbulbs is the one who was credited with the creation of the first strand of them. These bulbs were strung outside Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory in 1880. Calvin Coolidge, the President of the United States, started a new tradition in 1923 by lighting the National Christmas Tree using 2,500 electric lights.

From there, the tradition took root.

Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia was the first to offer drive-throughs. They hired a high school class to create frames, string lights, and other displays that motorists could enjoy.

Nowadays, many major cities offer a light show or several.

Events often include corporate sponsorships, hot chocolate, popcorn, and even gift shops. Rochester's "Big Bright Light Show" covers five blocks of Rochester, Michigan. The Lehigh Valley Zoo, Pennsylvania's "Winter Light Spectacular", features performances by Disney princesses for children. Each feature over 1,000,000 lights.

Large drives-through events draw thousands of vehicles.

David Fred, the owner of Indiana-based Winterland Inc. saw his events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway receive more than 200% increases last year. His company supplies 195 shows and operates another 11.

He estimates that there will be a 45% rise in popup events this holiday season as people try to capitalize on the success of last season.

They are becoming more complex. Extreme Lightscapes in Texas has a budget of $500,000.

"Everybody continues trying to outdo one another in terms of scale, scope, and technological complexity," stated Darren Vader, the company's "head elf".

These events can be run by municipalities, non-profits and businesses.

Matt Reed, Arizona-based Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Products, stated that many of these operators began with extravagant shows at their homes before they decided to go into business. He said that many of them started out as entertainers and then went on to run lavish shows for family and friends.

When there is a lot of love behind the project, you feel a difference. He said that it's more than a job.