The rules of the road, at least when you're driving through a winter wonderland: Dim your lights, don't make any stops and don't forget the 3-D glasses for the crew. And, oh yeah, keep an eye out for Santa, his wife and the reindeer, who are virtually everywhere at the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County's Sixth Annual Holiday Light Show.
"It's amazing," says Jessica Rera, 11, of East Moriches, one of 175 Girl Scouts who toured the display on a recent evening. "It was really bright. There were definitely more lights this year."
The show, which follows a one-mile wooded trail, opened Dec. 3 with its largest crowd yet, according to organizers, with 3,000 visitors over the first weekend. Since then, traffic has been steady, averaging 250 cars a night, says communications director Thomas Flanagan. Up to 850 cars are expected each night this weekend.
The light show transforms five miles' worth of lights into 36 often-animated displays. Visitors are given 3-D glasses to enhance the experience. Along the way, they'll pass twinkling lollipops and gingerbread houses; a tropical Santa boating amid palm trees; yellow giraffes, monkeys and elephants; and a "wild west" scene featuring a general store and saloon, as well as a lighted sheriff, cowboy and plenty of cactuses.
There's also a red-white-and-blue salute to the USA, a farmyard and a "Nutcracker" tribute.
"The 3-D effects were cool, and it's very colorful," says Kelly Balezos, 13, of Manorville. "I liked the tunnels we drove through."
New this year: A 23-foot tall Empire State Building, which glows white, red and green. In terms of top displays, it is rivaled perhaps only by last year's addition, a castle that reigns as the show's largest display. A prince and princess dance inside, while a horse and carriage await nearby.
"It's magnificent, really," says event communications manager Christine Terzella. "It's life-size, and you're not expecting to see a castle in the middle of the woods."
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, an indoor "Holiday Village" features chorus singers, a gift shop, hot cocoa and snacks, and, of course, photos with Santa ($15 for two 4x6 prints).
Also inside is the Hall of Trees: 45 live evergreens, each with its own theme as decorated by a local Girl Scout troop. One tree features snacks-turned-ornaments (think mini-Goldfish packets and candy canes) - another is adorned with colorful cutouts and a fluorescent peace sign on top. The trees will be donated to homeless shelters and nursing homes before Christmas.
For the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, the Holiday Light Show transcends the holiday season. Planning for the display, which is touted as Long Island's largest, begins again each January, Flanagan says. Come October, volunteers spend seven days a week stringing lights and setting up the stations that line the trail.
Meanwhile, about seven volunteers will begin deconstructing this year's show Jan. 2, which is typically a weeklong process. "It's a lot easier taking it down than setting it up," Flanagan says.
Sixth Annual Girl Scouts of Suffolk County Holiday Light Show: 5-9 p.m. daily through Dec. 30 (closed Dec. 24-25). Holiday Village open through Saturday, Dec. 19, 600 Lakeview Ave., Bayport, 631-472-1625, holidaylightshow.org. Cost: $12 a car.