Friday Fiver: Philip Macchia

philip macchiaPhilip Macchia has seen the light. Millions of them, in fact. The Director of Parks for the City of Charleston, Macchia oversees the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park, which is routinely honored as one of the top light festivals in the nation. Macchia’s first Festival was in 1991, its second year. Since that time, he has seen it grow to millions of lights over the three-mile path, and surge to being a top family holiday destination for myriad hands-on holiday fun. We sat down with him for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Q: What is one light exhibit that has been retired that was the most memorable?

A: We’ve retired a couple of good ones over the years and hope one day they may return…two displays that would be good to return are “the best friend of Charleston (train) and Santa on a surf board.  We also retired the Partridge in a pear tree … I can only think of about 4-5 displays (Santa on a bench)  that we’ve retired in 26 years.

Palm20Trees1200Q: What is one behind-the-scenes fact most visitors would be surprised by?

A: The one thing that most people don’t really comprehend… we work on the show almost year round with building new, repairing old, replacing panels, breakers, fighting ants, wasp etc, tree trimming, mowing sites, planting new trees (not every year) and brainstorming new stuff to fit our script each year.  It’s more work than people realize and an army to make it work.

Q: The Festival is routinely recognized in regional and national publications as one of the top holiday attractions in the country. How do you make it fresh and new each year?

A: We do discuss it year round.  It works to keep it fresh and continuous.  This way we are not doing things at the last minute, we are constantly planning, thinking and implementing and trying to make it better each year.

Q: For a first time Festival attendee, what is the best advice you can give them so they can get the most out of the experience?

A: Go more than once!  Go on a “slow night” and take your time, look and experience all the aspects of the show.  Go on a “busy” night and feel the crowd excitement.  Being around kids also brings a certain excitement when you see their eyes light with the beauty of the show.

Q: What are your top three go-to Christmas songs?

A: Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Joy to the World

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