Capital Holiday Lights offers a dazzling display

The event is open Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. until Jan. 2. There are photo opportunities, holiday characters, music and refreshments in the Lake House most nights. All proceeds ($15 per car, $25 per limousine or 15-passenger van and $75 per bus) go to support PAL, a juvenile crime prevention program in its 21st year that engages kids, cops and the community together outside of a law enforcement setting.

"We do a lot of things within the community and offer after-school programs in about 15 locations," said Ricchiuti. "We have chess competitions, track and field, bowling, computer club, publishing club, karate club, drill and step team and Youth Leadership Council, among others. There is no cookie cutter for our services, we just do things the kids ask us to do, within reason."

PAL doesn't accept the assistance without giving back. Different groups of kids that are involved with and benefit from PAL volunteer on at Capital Holiday Lights on various nights; some dress in holiday costumes and entertain younger visitors and others take photos, hand out stickers and help with refreshments.

"Thousands of people and hours go into setting up and running the event. Young and old from across the community " whether it's an electricians union, carpenters union or school group " give up time and talents to make this work," said Ricchiuti.

The Comptroller's office has been volunteering at Capital Holiday Lights since its very first year. Dennis Tompkins, spokesperson for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, said a core of volunteers donate their time for up to a week.

"Basically they [volunteers] do whatever is necessary " set up, direct traffic, whatever," said Tompkins. "There was originally a team of people who were very into the charity that it [Capital Holiday Lights] supports and their enthusiasm spread and has been infectious. Like any great volunteer effort it takes a few people to light a fire and they inspire others to get involved."

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