More people than ever before came out to see the 2012 Holiday Lights in the Gardens, the annual light display at the Florida Botanical Gardens Nov. 23 through Jan. 1.
Chuck Scaffidi, president of the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, which runs the event, said 77,000 visitors strolled through the gardens to check out the lights, laser shows and plants.
"That number is 17,000 more than what we saw last year. What's really heartwarming to me personally is seeing all the families coming out together, and all the smiles,'' Scaffidi said.
And with all those smiles came a hefty number of donations for the Botanical Gardens.
Although the annual event is free, a donation of $2 per adult is requested. According to Scaffidi, volunteers collected $118,000 through the gate donation program. This means, once expenses are paid, the foundation will have $80,000 for maintenance of the Botanical Gardens. The money will also help foot the bill for next year's light display.
With the continued growth comes challenges, Scaffidi said. "We want to keep all these people coming back and interested. We need to come up with new ways to make sure it stays exciting.''