Light festival might get new home on Hilton Head

A popular holiday lights display could move from Dove Street to town-owned land on Hilton Head Island.

Dove Street Festival of Lights organizers met last week with town staff to discuss plans to light up parts of Crossings Park.

Festival co-founder Paul Beckler said a roundabout and tree canopy over a section of road leading to the park's meadow and soccer field would be perfect spots to festoon with lights, which could be strung over the road and in the traffic circle. Organizers would need approval from Town Council to use the land.

"We're still gathering information," said Scott Liggett, town director of public projects and facilities. "We need to explore with Palmetto Electric if they can provide the power service we'd need at the location at Crossings Park. If that's not feasible, we need to know that right away."

This winter was the last year for the event at Dove Street. Festival organizers said they need to know by this summer if the Crossings Park location will work in order to put on the event next winter.

"We also need to study issues of how to address traffic flow; accessibility; how donations will be collected, managed and turned in; maintenance; security; and trash pickup," before making a recommendation to council, Liggett said.

Dove Street residents have been trying for the past year to build town and community support to take over the festival, which has attracted thousands of spectators for the past 20 years. It has grown so large, the handful of families who organize the event can no longer manage it, Beckler said. Residents and visitors have come to depend on the event, not only as a source of Christmas cheer but as a charity fundraiser, he said.

Beckler and others also met last week with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to establish a fund to provide for the festival's long-term support. The fund also would enable contributors to receive a tax deduction.

Cost to move the festival to Crossings Park is estimated between $25,000 to $30,000, including $2,500 to establish the fund -- hopefully paid for through a private foundation or corporate sponsor, Beckler said.

"We don't want the town to be footing the bill. We want this to be an event funded by people and businesses in the community," he said.

About 30 percent of that would be needed annually just to replace lights, Beckler said.

An advisory board is being established to organize the event and guide grants to charities from money raised by the festival, said Carolyn Torgersen, Community Foundation vice president for marketing and communications.

"We are thrilled to be involved and excited about what they are able to give back to the community," Torgersen said.

Liggett said the fund would make staff more likely to recommend using town-owned land to the Town Council.

"We need to transition away from what traditionally has been a group of well-meaning citizens into some entity the town can deal with in the future, if this is going to happen," he said.