Editor’s note:
I am siting the historical dates included in this article from memory. They may be off by a year or two but that does impact my opinion in any way.

EastTexasExposed.com has verified that in the last month City Manager Jack Redmon has discussed transferring management of Wonderland of Lights from the City to the Chamber with Chamber Director Stormy Nickerson.

I commend the City Manager for taking this action since festival management is not a core function of the City and historically the City has not been directly involved in the management of Wonderland of Lights.

Wonderland of Lights was born in 1982 – the brainchild of Marshall News Messenger Publisher George Smith. The festival was managed by volunteers with heavy citizen involvement. In 1985 I was living in California but returned to Marshall for Christmas – the first time in 20 years.

I was very impressed with WOL. The decoration of the Square was very nice; the decorations on the neighbors’ homes were outstanding. This was something that Marshall could be proud of.

Wonderland was born as a volunteer-driven organization and was managed using a 501c3 structure. When I arrived back in Marshall in 2001, Wonderland was managed by Marshall Festivals. Marshall Festivals was criticized by many people, including me. I now realize how wrong I was. I now know Marshall Festivals did an outstanding job considering what they had to work with and the changes in society since WOL inception in 1982.

WOL was operated as a standalone 501c3 for 28 years. In retrospect, this was the best way to manage the festival.

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An abstract blue pattern with numbers

By Ron Munden – June 26, 2018

The wait is finally over. Based on the numbers the City provided for my February 6, 2018 open records request and the three previous three requests, the numbers provided by the City show that the City lost at least $191,998 on WOL 2017. I say at least because the City said because of their accounting system they could not provide me the contract labor costs or the material cost for January 2018. So, no January costs are included for those items.

The $191,998 is based entirely on the numbers provided by the City. I did make one adjustment. The City uses $50,000 of hotel occupancy tax money to pay for WOL. They count this $50,000 as revenue. This is not revenue it is simply a transfer of money between two city accounts. No one gave the City an extra $50,000 for WOL. This is a zero-sum-game for the City. Therefore, deducted the $50,000 from the revenue the City reported.

As I mentioned there are several missing expense numbers from the numbers provided by the City.

When the Convention and Visitors Bureau operated as a 501c3 and produced WOL the City charged the CVB for electricity usage. As I recall the charge was around $35,000/year. Now that the City runs the festival it does not report electricity as an expense even though the City pays the bill.

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