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25th Capital Holiday Lights in the Park will be last in Albany’s Washington Park

In December 2021, city hall declared Albany's Washington Park "overrun" by Lights in the Park. It branded the event "a huge burden," too disruptive to continue after a 25-year run.
In December 2021, city hall declared Albany's Washington Park "overrun" by Lights in the Park. It branded the event "a huge burden," too disruptive to continue after a 25-year run.

A holiday tradition will return to Albany’s Washington Park for the last time this year.

The 25th season of Holiday Lights will be in Washington Park for the final time.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the Capital Region tradition where cars snake through the park, taking in dozens of displays, will run from November 26th through January 2nd.

“So a lot of things have changed that have added to the complexity and the challenges associated with having Lights in the Park in this historic park,” Sheehan said.

The Police Athletic League sponsored event comes with a few changes: this year admissions must be secured ahead of time online through PAL’s website.

Sheehan said "The reservation system, we hope, is going to ease some of the traffic issues with everybody arriving at the same time. And it will allow PAL to really be able to know how many people are coming, so that we don't have that overload that we have experienced in excess last year, and then from time to time, in years prior to that."

PAL Board Chairman David Bauer: "So it'll be a third party vendor that the app, there will be a link on PAL's website for reservations, and you'll have a specified date and time to come to the Lights. And we'll have so many vehicles that are allowed in that 15 minutes. The hope would be that we'd have the same number of attendees, but it'll be spread over the entire time so that we won't have the traffic backlog."

Sheehan says there will be three pedestrian-only evenings: November 21st, 22nd and December 11th.

"PAL also took a look at where it puts its lights, its lights displays, and was really respectful of the fact that Washington Park is in the midst of planning a new playground, and so has determined that it won't be putting lights in the playground, because that planning activity is ongoing, and so we want that area to be clear and available as we plan for that exciting project for next year," said Sheehan.

The event has gotten so big and popular over recent years it has raised neighbors’ concerns about traffic and air pollution.

Outgoing Albany Common Councilor Richard Conti.
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
Outgoing Albany Common Councilor Richard Conti.

Outgoing Common Councilor Richard Conti represents the 6th ward: "Policy here in the city of Albany has decidedly emphasized environmental sustainability, care of our urban green spaces, pedestrian accessibility, and efforts to reduce traffic and traffic congestion. Just as this event has outgrown its current venue, is focused on bringing auto traffic into an urban green space in a densely populated urban area, just clashes with those policy directions. The concerns expressed by the neighborhood stakeholders regarding the impact of the event is new. But due to circumstances surrounding the event last year, they've been more fully heard and acknowledged."

Bauer says PAL is already looking for a new location for 2022 and adds it would be best to secure one as soon as possible. "We're in discussions with a bunch of different things. And we also have to look at the time that it's gonna take to put that infrastructure in. It depends if we use generators, which, obviously that's not a preferred method. So, you know, if we had six months, we could probably lay the infrastructure."


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According to PAL, Sunday, November 21st will be Food for Friends Walk Night, the proceeds of which will go to PAL’s programming, and the Charities of Choice: American Red Cross of Northeastern New York and Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY. Admission is $5 per person, or $10 for a family. Patrons are encouraged to bring a non-perishable item as a donation to the Capital Region Food Pantry.

Monday, November 22nd will be Pet Walk Night. Admission is $5 per person, or $10 for a family. Pets are admitted for free.

Saturday, December 11th’s walk night will correspond with the City of Albany's 25th Annual Last Run 5K.

Anyone interested in helping to support PAL’s critical youth programs and create holiday memories for more than 100,000 youth and families who made the Capital Holiday Lights in the park the region’s premier holiday attraction, is encouraged to contact Albany PAL at 518-435-0392 or email programs@albanypal.org, to apply or volunteer to help with this year’s show.

A full schedule of events for the 25th Season of Capital Holiday Lights in the Park will be posted online soon. Check http://albanycapitalholidaylights.com/ for updates.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.