Lake Julian Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights Image 2 (Happy Holidays)


Western North Carolina Tradition Benefits Buncombe County Special Olympics

Lake Julian Festival of Lights will once again brighten local holidays as it enters its eighteenth year of operation. The annual light show has become a local winter holiday staple offering an inexpensive and accessible family-oriented experience. Lake Julian Festival of Lights thrives from its connection to the community; 20% of proceeds are donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics, while the remaining income is reinvested to enhance the festival for the following year.

The light show will open with the popular Lights by the Lake Foot Tour on December 1, from 5:30pm – 9pm. Admission for the walking tour is only $5 per adult. Children under 16 are admitted free with a paying adult. Guests are invited to experience the lights through a memorable and immersive experience by leaving their cars behind and taking a leisurely stroll through thousands of bright, twinkling holiday lights. Visitors can wind their way to the center of the park where they will find games, crafts with LEAF’s Easel Rider Artists, s’mores, are more. Santa will even be on hand for photos. Parking for the foot tour will be at Family of Faith Fellowship Church.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights will open to cars on December 2 and run through December 23, operating nightly from 6pm – 9pm for a thrilling visual experience. The drive circling the park becomes a magical journey through tunnels of dazzling, animated, and stationary light displays. Visitors are invited to watch lights twinkle over the lake while listening to their favorite holiday music as the sounds transform the show into a magical holiday journey. The festival’s official radio sponsor has multiple holiday stations available to stream from the free iHeartRadio app.

Vehicle entry for Festival of Lights is $10 per passenger vehicle and $20 for large vans, motor coaches, and buses.  Advance tickets may be purchased for $8 per passenger vehicle and $14 for large vans, motor coaches, and buses online at Iwanna has joined as a sponsor this year and will provide a commemorative program for each guest with Festival of Lights trivia, holiday history, and information for staying healthy during the winter months.


Lake Julian Festival of Lights is presented by Buncombe County Recreation Services.  Businesses interested in partnering with this time treasured event are encouraged to contact Buncombe County Recreation Services for sponsorship information.

Lake Julian Park is located at 406 Overlook Extension in Arden, just off of Long Shoals Road.


Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament

BCSO Fall Games (5)

Athletes representing the Buncombe County Special Olympics Bulldogs ended the 2018 season with a third place finish in their division at the Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament in Charlotte. Two individual skills athletes also competed with David Lunsford taking first place and Sean Griffin placing fourth in their respective divisions.


An opening ceremony at Bojangles’ Coliseum included the Law Enforcement Torch Run, lighting of a cauldron, and a parade of athletes, similar to the modern Olympic Games. With more than 1,000 athletes from across the state, it was the second largest state-level competition of the year. Sports included six disciplines: basketball, bocce, golf, roller skating, soccer, and tennis.


“The Fall Tournament was a great platform for our athletes to show off how hard they have worked this season,” said Karla Furnari of Buncombe County Recreation Services, who is also a Buncombe County Special Olympics coach and Local Coordinator. “The Special Olympics athlete’s oath is, ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ Our primary goal is to build confidence, have fun, and share the experience and friendship with families, supporters, and volunteers. In addition to the competitions, ceremonies, and awards, there was also a dance held on Saturday night that the athletes loved.”


Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy in 1968 and celebrates 50 years of changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities in 2018. Buncombe County Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for youth and adults. Sports include alpine skiing and snowboarding, aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, gymnastics, powerlifting, and soccer. The organization also recently started offering the Adaptive Athlete Program in a partnership with South Slope CrossFit and Buncombe County Recreation Services.


Buncombe County Special Olympics is made possible through funding from donors and support from Buncombe County Government. Festival of Lights, held December 1-23 at Lake Julian Park, is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. To donate or volunteer, visit