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Trains impress at Christmas Magic York Dispatch

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An experiment to resolve traffic jams and long lines at one of York County's most popular Christmas attractions seems to be paying off.

The 35th annual Christmas light display at Rocky Ridge Park features a half-mile walking trail lined with light displays, as well as live music, food and activities.

Rachel Albright, program coordinator for York County Parks, said on Wednesday, Dec. 5, that for the most part, the new online ticket system for Christmas Magic is doing what it was designed to do.

"A bunch of people have stopped park rangers saying they appreciate the new system because they don’t have to wait in traffic, (and) they don’t have to wait in lines," she said.

In years past, Albright said visitors would wait about an hour in their cars just to get to the park and then up to another hour standing in line before they were able to walk the trail.

She said this year, no one has had to stand in line for more than about 10 minutes, and the parking lot is more navigable as visitors are coming and going.

How it works: All tickets for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now have to be bought ahead of time, either online, over the phone or in person at John C. Rudy County Park.

Every ticket corresponds to a specific 30-minute time slot.

Weekend tickets are not available at the door, although visitors who arrive on a weekend without a reservation can still go online with their smartphone and reserve a ticket, as long as there are still tickets available.

No more than 350 tickets are sold for each 30-minute increment of the evening, Albright said. So far, none of the available time slots have sold out, and the timed reservations have reduced traffic and wait times.

Although it might seem as though fewer people will be able to attend with the new system, Albright said reservations will allow more people to walk the trail because of smaller crowds, which make it easier move in and out of the park.

In total, even if every 30-minute time slot available on weekends were to sell out, that number would allow 2,800 people to attend in a single night.

More: Changes aimed to ease traffic headaches at Christmas Magic

More: PHOTOS: Christmas Magic takes shape at Rocky Ridge

Not perfect: The online ticket website has experienced a few glitches because of coding issues, Albright said, but her department is working on a permanent fix to iron out the issue before next year.

Until then, anyone having issues with the website can buy tickets over the phone or in person at John C. Rudy County Park.

Albright said the parks department has received a few complaints from attendees who didn't know about the new timed tickets.

"We’re trying to get the message out as best we can," she said. "We have multiple signs as you’re driving up to Christmas Magic and we have a turnaround spot before you get back to the park if you don’t have a ticket."

If cars without tickets do make it to the park, there's also a parking lot where they can pull over and log on to the Christmas Magic website through their smartphones to see if there are any tickets available.

Park rangers reported to Albright that on opening night, Friday, Nov. 23, about 14 cars arrived without knowing they needed to reserve tickets ahead of time. She said visitors in 10 of those cars logged on to the website with their phones and were able to buy tickets.

About 1,200 people attended opening night. On weekends, the event typically sees between 1,000 and 2,000 people, and sometimes that number exceeds 2,000, Albright said.

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Rainy weather has forced the parks department to close Christmas Magic on a few occasions over the last two weeks, but Albright said she's still hopeful for a well-attended season.

If you go: Christmas Magic runs until Monday, Dec. 31, but will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours of operation are Monday to Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.

Tickets sold at the door (available only Monday to Thursday) are cash only. ATMs are  available on-site.

Cost is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors ages 60 and older, $5 for children ages 4 to 12 and free for children younger than 4.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit yorkcountypa.gov/parks-recreation, click on the "events" tab and navigate to Christmas Magic.

Tickets also can be purchased over the phone at 717-840-7443 or in person, Monday through Friday, at John C. Rudy Park between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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