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People flock to final night of Lights on the River

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LISBON — Cars lined up at Lisbon Beach and Campground to see 75 blazing Christmas light displays for the last time Sunday, as Lights on the River celebrated its final night.

The event ran every night from Dec. 15-23. More than 3,000 cars visited the camp despite a few days of bad weather, along with a tour bus, a hayride and a couple limousines.

Lights on the River has grown every year since starting in 2010. It began with only 25 displays, but this year 75 families, businesses and nonprofit organizations created their own additions to the spectacle.

Scott A Wilhelm, president of Lights on the River, said the growth will likely continue next year. The camp is renovating a large piece of land, which will give the show more room in 2013.

“The more people we have, the more good we can do and the more fun it will be,” Mr. Wilhelm said.

Entrance to Lights on the River is free, but attendees are encouraged to donate money or food items, all of which will be sent to area food pantries.

The group had raised $11,000 as of Sunday, with a full night of visitors left to go.

The elaborate light display drew people from far and wide. Several Canadians, seeing a giant Christmas tree from across the St. Lawrence River, drove across the bridge just to fulfill their curiosity.

“We have people who drive through, they’ll be here night after night” said volunteer Amy M. Fortin.

Lights on the River was inspired by Liverpool’s annual Lights on the Lake event. Organization president Scott A. Wilhelm began organizing the show with his family and friends when he moved back home to Lisbon after living two years in Liverpool.

“It started out with six friends sitting at a table,” said Scott’s father, Henry C. Wilhelm, who oversees the grounds.

Visitors and a team of judges picked their favorite displays to win a blue ribbon.

The winning display was a Yuletide pirate ship captained by Santa and crewed by piratical penguins, created by the Brander family.

The second-place prize went to the Joanette family, of Ogdensburg, who created a display in memorial of George S. Joanette Sr., who died of a heart attack several months ago. Mr. Joanette was survived by 11 children and 14 grandchildren.

“He was the glue that held the whole family together,” said George S. Joanette Jr.

Lights on the River may be over, but the work is not. Mr. Wilhelm and his team will spend the next week taking down the displays, Then, it is time to start preparing for next year’s event.

“We’re already planning the fourth annual,” Mrs. Fortin said. “We work year round.”

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