Desoto County News

Olive Branch aldermen updated on Washington trip, The Light Garden

Photo: Funding for improvements at the Olive Branch Airport was obtained during the Washington, D.C. trip by officials. (Bob Bakken/

Olive Branch Mayor Ken Adams updated the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday about the recent Blue Ribbon trip that city and county officials made to meet with their representatives in Washington, D.C. Adams said the city won’t know for several months the outcome of some of the projects funding was requested from Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Congressman Trent Kelly and others at the federal level. 

However, Adams did say funding for airport improvements is moving forward.  

“We did get final confirmation that we received $3.5 million for apron improvement at our airport, that has been signed off by the President, so we were pleased about that,” said Adams. “We’ve also received from the state Legislature a $1 million grant for terminal renovation at the airport. It’s been a number of years since the waiting area has been rehabbed. That’s going to be a positive new face for that.”  

Adams added that $750,000 has been approved for control tower work at the airport.  

Funding help for highway widening and infrastructure in Olive Branch were among the major issues brought to the federal level, Adams said.  

“We asked for the widening of (state Highway) 305, we asked for wastewater and sewer infrastructure improvements, and additional airport funding, as well,” Adams said. “We’ll know more in a couple of months.”

Adams told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday that all together, DeSoto County requested about $1.2 billion in federal help for projects in the county during the visit to the Nation’s Capitol, which the mayor admitted was a lot of money.  

“For instance, in the two-and-a-half years since I became mayor, the estimated cost to widen 305 has gone from $225 million to $500 million, so it’s going to take federal dollars to make some of those things happen,” Adams told the board. “Cities and the county just don’t have that amount of funding and money to do those things, so, time will tell and we’ll keep asking.” 

Aldermen also heard from Russ Lehman from The Events Benefits, which annually puts together The Light Garden holiday event at Olive Branch City Park.  Lehman updated the board on the show and plans for this year’s show, set to run this year from Nov. 22-Jan. 1.

A total of 345 light displays were part of The Light Garden with about 500,000 LEDs in the park, Lehman said. About 3.5 miles of extension cord connects the displays with electricity donated by Northcentral Electric Cooperative for about two miles of decorations.  

About 11,000 fireworks have been set off since starting The Light Garden, although it was noted that fireworks last New Year’s Eve did close the show early when a fire was started in the adjacent baseball complex. 

Year-to-date, Lehman said there have been about 32,000 people who have gone through the light show from 33 different states. About 17,200 people attended last year’s display and some of those purchased about 5,000 cups of hot chocolate to stay warm, purchased from Pinks Coffee House, along with over 900 cups of coffee, Lehman said.  

One other statistic has had a more lasting impact, he noted.  

“We have had eight successful marriage proposals at The Light Garden,” Lehman said. “We have a 100 percent success rate for marriage.” 

Special nights will continue, such as a military weekend, a dog night, Chef’s Night, and a Costume Night, which Lehman said has a new benefit partner.  

“We’re excited to officially announce that we are partnering with Toys For Tots as a benefactor,” he said. “We’re trying to source a train where if you donate to them a toy you can ride the train throughout the show for free.”   

The Light Garden 5K for Charity run event will return. Last year, about 170 runners took part in the run, which generated $7,600 for Make-A-Wish. The 170 runners was a significant growth in numbers from the initial 59 runners that took part the first year.  

A weather-friendly policy will continue that allows tickets to be used for any of the nights, with the exception of New Year’s Eve, which Lehman said is a premium ticket night.  Season passes, buses and group rate options will continue, and he added many people have been able to visit at no charge over the course of the event.  

“We’ve given over 2,500 tickets away that are free admissions, to teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, active or retired military, and that’s a $35,000 value in tickets,” Lehman said.  

Mayor Ken Adams said The Light Garden has been a great addition to the city. 

“It’s a crowd pleaser and it’s great exposure for the city,” Adams said.