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Miles of traffic toured holiday displays inside Nela Park (photos)

December 28, 2017 GMT

Miles of traffic toured holiday displays inside Nela Park (photos)

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — The famed holiday lights inside the gates of GE’s Nela Park campus drew traffic over five nights that would stretch more than 26 miles in a bumper-to-bumper line.

The turnout helped make the event a virtual trip back in time. Nela Park had not been opened to drive-through visitors since 1958, when huge traffic jams led to the closing of the grounds and the limiting of holiday displays to areas visible along Noble Road.

This year, more than 9,000 cars drove onto the 92-acre campus on the five weekend nights it was open, according to GE spokeswoman Alicia Gauer.

“Multiply that by three or four visitors per car and we were able to bring holiday magic to 27,000-36,000 people — not counting the many who have visited our Noble Road displays daily,” she said.

The displays along Noble Road will be lit around the clock through New Year’s Day.

The return of the illuminated wonderland inside Nela Park was inspired by visitors who fondly remembered family drives through it.

“We didn’t know quite what to expect 60-plus years later,” Gauer said. “We were overwhelmed by the response.”

Among the visitors was an elderly woman with her family — including the daughter she had after going into labor while driving through the grounds in the 1950s.

“We waited hours. The wait was the best part!” another woman wrote in an email to GE. “The lights were beautiful and listening to my parents reminisce about Christmas gone by was priceless.”

Traffic was so heavy and waits were so long on the first night the gates were opened that GE kept them open an extra 90 minutes and extended the hours on other nights.

“We haven’t started planning for next year,” Gauer said.

The still-visible Noble Road display, with the them “Melodies and Memories,” depicts carols and holiday songs, and has a replica of the National Christmas Tree at the White House, which GE Lighting has designed and lit for 55 years.

Nela Park, headquarters of GE Lighting, opened in 1912 as the world’s first industrial park. The NELA name is an acronym for National Electric Lamp Association, which was absorbed by GE.