Charities try to make holidays bright without Dove Street lights

tbarton@islandpacket.comDecember 13, 2011 

Hilton Head Island charities are noticing the absence of a popular source of Christmas cheer -- and donations.

The Dove Street Festival of Lights, which dazzled islanders and visitors alike for two decades, ended its run last year.

A few on Dove Street will have traditional decorations this year, but the street won't feature the display many have grown accustomed to, said festival co-founder Paul Beckler.

Last year, organizers collected more than $12,000 for The Deep Well Project, which provides food for the hungry and emergency aid for rent, water and utility bills for the working poor, along with other services.

This year, Deep Well has collected about one-tenth what it normally does through its "Community Well," which is currently placed in Coligny Plaza near Dove Street. During December, volunteers accept money, nonperishable food and unwrapped gifts for children at that drop-off location. In the past, fesitval organizers have helped collect donations for Deep Well.

"We are getting some donations in the well, but nothing like before," said executive director Betsy Doughtie. "That's a large amount we'll be missing this year, but people are being very generous, and we hope to make it up in other ways."

Programs for Exceptional People has felt the lights' absence, as well. The nonprofit had received "a nice amount" from donations to buy books, software and other materials that help adults with special needs become independent, said PEP executive director Jayme Greco.

More importantly, Dove Street provided an opportunity for PEP members to socialize with the community as they helped organizers decorate, Greco said.

Some have stepped in to help.

Steamers Seafood agreed to donate to Deep Well the profits from a Saturday Christmas Festival and Oyster Roast. And Sea Pines Resort is collecting canned goods and unwrapped gifts for the agency as part of its holiday light display at Harbour Town.

Beckler and Rob Lolik, the festival's other co-founder, hope the lights will return at a different location, possibly in a redeveloped Coligny area.

"It's been a great run, and we'll see what comes next," Lolik said.

Organizers were unable to gather corporate and private contributions to sustain an event they say grew too large to manage.

"We are just as disappointed as everyone else and thank all those who have helped us put the festival on throughout the years ... but the amount of effort we have to put into it is enormous," Beckler said.

It required about 80,000 lights and two weeks to prepare, more than doubling most residents' monthly electric bills, Beckler said. Residents also had to manage as thousands of cars drove through the neighborhood each night.

"After giving so much for 20 years, it's a mixed bag of emotions," Doughtie said of the darker Dove Street. "People on the street really miss it. They are crushed. It pulled everyone together in the Christmas spirit for so many years.

"But (festival organizers) were incredible. They gave up six weeks of their life for that festival."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

Related content

  1. Dove Street Festival of Lights
  2. Deep Well Project
  3. Dove Street goes dark this holiday: Aug. 3, 2011
  4. Light festival might get new home on Hilton Head: Jan. 10, 2011

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