The City of Batesville and Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce Announce the Return of White River Wonderland to Riverside Park
November 4, 2022 (Batesville, AR) — Each winter, the light display that earned Batesville recognition as the Christmas Capital of Arkansas™ takes over Riverside Park for locals and visitors to experience a magical holiday season on the White River.
Last year, over forty-eight thousand cars drove through the display, drawing the interest of travelers from 33 states and 12 countries. Forty-five percent of Ferris Wheel riders were out-of-state visitors.
Batesville’s White River Wonderland has been recognized for contributing to Arkansas’s growing tourism industry. It was named the 2022 Ozark Gateway Region’s Festival of the Year and was a finalist for the Arkansas Tourism Attraction of the Year Award.
“The 2022 display will be back and bigger than ever,” said Johnathan Abbott, City of Batesville Landscape Supervisor. “Our crews have been hard at work getting Riverside Park ready with expanded displays and new interactive attractions.”
The City of Batesville and the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce jointly announced that the White River Wonderland would open its 2022 display on Wednesday, November 23, at 5 p.m. The lights display will be on daily from 5 p.m. to midnight. The final chance to see the Lights will be on Monday, January 2, 2023.
The show features millions of lights and welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Admission to White River Wonderland is free; however, donations are accepted.
As always, visitors will have numerous options for viewing the lights.
“You can walk or drive through the display or catch a horse-drawn carriage, train, or Ferris wheel ride. That’s what makes us different,” continued Abbott. “Most other displays in the state are either drive-thru or walk-thru. We are a little bit of everything in Batesville.”
Watch the show from the warmth of your car as you listen to your favorite Christmas tunes on White River Wonderland’s radio station. The entire display is also walkable, with illuminated sidewalks and walking trails. A fully-lit walking trail leads visitors to the light show from the overflow parking lot at the Batesville Community Center.
Visitors may also ride through the display in one of the White River Wonderland’s horse-drawn carriages. Carriage rides will run from November 25 through December 30, except December 25. Carriage rides are $10 per person ages two and up.
The custom-built White River Express train will return this year from November 25 through December 30, except December 25. Train rides are $6 per person ages two and up.
A family favorite, the synthetic-surfaced skating rink will also return to the Riverside Park amphitheater. The rink will be open from November 26 through December 30. The rink will be closed on December 24 and 25. Ice skating is $6 for 1 hour; skates are provided.
The Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce is bringing back the 70-foot LED Ferris Wheel for a limited time. Last year, over 5,400 riders enjoyed the Ferris Wheel. The Ferris wheel is $5 per rider, regardless of age, and will operate from December 16 through 22. Tickets for the Ferris Wheel will be available for pre-order online on December 1.
Santa Claus will make his return to the Christmas Capital of Arkansas™ to visit the White River Wonderland lights display. Each weekend, visitors will be able to take Selfies with Santa. Visitors will get to spend 3 minutes with Santa for $5.
“We think this year will be the best lights display yet,” continued Abbott. “We think families will build life-long memories with a trip to Batesville’s White River Wonderland.”
Learn more about the Christmas Capital of Arkansas™ at whiteriverwonderland.com or the White River Wonderland Facebook page.
Photo provided by Storyteller Images
Cathy Drew is a lifelong resident of the region that she loves to promote. She was born in downtown Batesville in the late ’60s, located in one of the eight counties she now enjoys encouraging people to visit.
Drew became associated with the Ozark Gateway Region in 1990 while working at the ad agency (The Media Market Inc.). The agency handled marketing for the regional association, where she and her co-workers produced an annual tabloid publication. She began working as the Ozark Gateway Region director in June 2000.
After Drew became director, she took the region to the next level by helping the tourism organization create a new website and moved it from the old newspaper paper tabloid publication to a color magazine format. She helped open a visitor center for the Ozark Gateway, allowing visitors to pick up information from the entire state 24/7. Over the years, Drew has helped the organization meet new marketing goals, such as in- and out-of-state marketing, assuring that all 100,000 copies of their magazines are distributed each year.
In 2016, she assisted in creating the first Ozark Gateway Region Golf Classic. The tournament continues to grow each year, allowing the organization to expand its co-op program and helping each county have dedicated promotion. Drew stays busy at Ozark Gateway as the ad sales manager, magazine editor, day-to-day office operations, trade show representative, and magazine distribution representative, all while ensuring that the region is represented all over Arkansas and southern Missouri.
Drew was featured in several local and statewide publications over the years, as well as the 1997 cover of the Ozark Gateway Region tabloid, along with her then 4-year-old son, Jon. She has received several awards, such as the Batesville Rotarian of the Year in 2010 and a three-time Paul Harris Fellow.
She also has served as an Independence County election commissioner for several years. She now serves as their co-election coordinator, helping with behind-the-scenes management of voting equipment, day-to-day election deadlines, and poll worker training.
Drew serves on the Arkansas Travel Council Board of Directors, is Batesville Rotary Club Past President, and is the Rotary Clubs’ current publicity chair.
In March of 2018, Drew was honored with induction into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame for her many years of dedicated service to the tourism industry.