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Delaware Park will be transformed into a colorful nighttime attraction with more than 50 lighted holiday displays as a benefit for United Way.

Mayor Masiello said the non-denominational exhibition will include displays featuring animated characters like Frosty the Snowman, reindeer and other animals and such objects as a castle and train. They will be spaced around the park's 1.8-mile ring road from Nov. 11 to Jan. 2.

A $7 vehicle entry fee will be charged from 6 to 10 p.m. each Monday through Friday; the fee is $9 on Saturdays and Sundays. Two-dollar advance coupons will be available at Wegmans supermarkets.

Masiello and United Way Director Robert M. Bennett noted that similar programs have met with great success in Atlanta, Albany, Syracuse and more than 30 other cities.

The lighting will be installed by Brandano Displays of Syracuse and sponsored by Wegmans, Infinity Broadcasting and Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.

"We think this event will be a family tradition for years to come," Bennett added.

Cutler said that while portions of the Delaware Park display will be visible from adjacent roads, and it also will be possible to walk into the park for free, it is hoped people will want to get the full effect and support the United Way by paying the admission fee to drive through the exhibition.

"Lights in the Park" is not intended to compete with such large-scale, and free, events as the Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, Peter K. Cutler, a spokesman for Masiello, said Thursday night.

But officials with the 18-year-old Festival of Lights don't see it that way.

"What happened to regionalism?" Jerald I. Wolfgang, chairman of the Festival of Lights board, said Thursday night.

"I thought we were all supposed to be working together, yet here we have the City of Buffalo in competition with the Festival of Lights . . . I find it totally offensive."

Wolfgang said the festival -- which runs from Thanksgiving week to early January -- has wanted to have a drive-through lighting display on Goat Island for years, but has been turned down by the state because it was an Olmsted park.

Joan Conrad, president and CEO of the Festival of Lights -- which has a budget of about $370,000 this year -- said the state -- with strong lobbying by the Olmsted Park Conservancy -- has said the Niagara Reservation, which includes Goat Island, is considered a "preservation" park while Delaware is an "urban" park, so a drive-through holiday display is appropriate in Delaware Park, but not on Goat Island.

"We don't see the difference," Conrad said Thursday night. "Why is it acceptable in one Olmsted park, but not another?"

The Falls festival, has outdoor and indoor holiday lighting displays, mainly in the downtown area near the Convention & Civic Center and Rainbow Mall.

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