With the Magic Mile racing season in the rearview mirror, the attention turns to the holiday season. On Friday night, New Hampshire Motor Speedway started the ignition on the holidays, turning over two miles of the speedway grounds into the biggest holiday-themed light park in the Granite State.
With the help of 40 children from the Concord Boys & Girls Club, speedway officials flipped the switch on more than 2.5 million LED lights, which make up more than 60 displays (50 percent more than last year) and 400 scenes around New England's largest sports and entertainment facility.
Once again, the speedway's portion of the proceeds will be given to the New Hampshire Chapter of the Speedway Children's Charities, an organization that cares for children in education, financial, social and medical need. In the first two years of the Gift of Lights, the SCC has donated more than $56,000 to children's charities throughout New England.
"This is such a wonderful way to kick off the holidays," said Cheryl LaPrade, director of the Speedway Children's Charities New Hampshire Chapter. "To have all these kids here, it really makes for a special start to the Gift of Lights."
One of those charities is the Concord Boys & Girls Club, which has received more than $20,000 from the SCC thanks in large part to events like this one, something for which CBGC executive director Chris Emond is very thankful and appreciative.
"Our relationship is beyond more than just the money though," said Emond. "It's about the experiences these kids get. To come to the track and take part in a race weekend or just go to the infield. We are very, very grateful to be a part of this and everything we do with the speedway."
The Gift of Lights, which is open daily from 4:30-9:00 p.m., turns the Magic Mile grounds into a magical scene for the next 51 nights. Running through January 5, there's something for everyone to enjoy this holiday season, including sledding penguins, a mini tunnel with reindeer, a cart-wheeling bear, a pumpkin house with a chimney billowing smoke, a Santa-themed stock car with reindeer under the hood, and several other NASCAR-inspired exhibits, as well as the super-popular Tunnel of Lights, which measures over 250 feet in length.
The cost is $15 per car load Monday-Thursday and $20 Friday-Sunday.
Patrons donating three or more non-perishable food items will receive a discount. Those food items will be donated to the Loudon Food Pantry, which has received over 35,000 pounds of food over the first two years of the Gift of Lights.
"This is wonderful," said Sue Houck of the Loudon Food Pantry. "It's such a great way to being the holiday season, and we are very happy to be partnered with New Hampshire Motor Speedway."
After steering through the light displays, photo opportunities with Santa and Milo the Moose will be available. Vendors will have hot chocolate, free S'mores provided by Hannaford's Supermarkets and on select weekends, the W.I.L.D. Center & Zoological Park of New England, will bring live animals.
Tickets for the Gift of Lights can be purchased online at www.giftoflightsnhms.com or at the gate. Tickets to the July 13 Camping World RV Sales 301 and the Sept. 21 SYLVANIA 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends are also on sale now. They can be purchased by calling the NHMS ticket hotline at (603) 783-4931 or by visiting www.nhms.com. Be sure to keep up with the latest Magic Mile news by logging onto the track's Facebook page at NHMotorSpeedway and on Twitter @NHMS.