It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, where the green flag will drop Nov. 16 on the 16th season of Speedway In Lights Powered by TVA.
This year, a new route will give visitors a fresh look at the holiday light show — the largest in the South — as they begin their drive-through trek at the Bristol Dragway entrance, just off Highway 394. In the past, guests have entered though the South entrance of the Speedway, off Volunteer Parkway.
Open for nearly seven weeks each season, Speedway In Lights, along with its companion events — the Johnson Controls Ice Rink and HVAC Chill Hill, both of which will begin their seasons Nov. 15 — offers guests an evening of fun while also allowing them to give back, as proceeds benefit the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.
Over the past 15 years, more than $6.5 million has been raised for children’s organizations in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Speedway In Lights is the single largest fundraiser each year for Speedway Children’s Charities’ Bristol Chapter.
Featuring millions of sparkling lights and hundreds of brilliant displays positioned all around the World’s Fastest Half-Mile and throughout Thunder Valley, Speedway In Lights features such favorites as the Ripley’s Penguin Playhouse and the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies display, located underneath the front stretch grandstands at the Speedway.
Also returning this year is the Subway Symphony of Lights, boasting more than 300,000 LED lights that cover the Darrell Waltrip Grandstand and are synchronized to music. Symphony of Lights also features a large Christmas tree along with dazzling snowflakes that dance in harmony on a large, ever-changing background. Light-covered arches, reflecting brilliant colors on more than three acres of aluminum grandstand seating, set the stage for a magnificent scene.
Holiday fun-seekers can view Symphony of Lights from the infield’s General Shale Brick Christmas Village, which features various carnival rides and food vendors. Santa Claus, as always, will be on hand for the festivities. This year, Christmas Village shifts position in the infield, moving from Turn 3 and 4 towards Turn 1 and 2.
Along the route, which includes a lap around BMS and a trip through Thunder Valley, visitors will enjoy numerous other presentations, including the Twelve Days of Christmas, complete with 12 animated individual scenes, and Dinosaur Village, which features six dinosaurs, including a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex and an erupting volcano.
Other favorites include the cannon shot, the dueling dragsters, the Sea of Illumination and the Coal Mountain Gift Mine. Measuring 70 feet long and 22 feet tall, the gift mine display features a miner tossing presents through the air into a front-end loader with some help from an elf.
Santa’s Speedway Sleigh gives passengers a whole new perspective on the show, riding them along the four-mile route in a special tram designed to give them a cozy, open-air experience.
During the trek, a tour guide will be available to answer questions as well as provide information about Speedway In Lights, Speedway Children’s Charities and Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway while Christmas carols are played on the tram’s sound system.
The tram will stop for 30 minutes in the BMS infield to allow guests to enjoy the crafts, carnival rides and food vendors in the General Shale Brick Christmas Village. Santa also stops in each night and is available for pictures.
Towed through the route by a Ford truck, Santa’s Speedway Sleigh accommodates 30 passengers on each trip. Embarking on their journey, visitors have their pictures taken as a special keepsake to remember the trip.
Each guest receives a coupon for a free bag of marshmallows to roast at the fire pits in Christmas Village. For their comfort, blankets also are available for patrons’ use during the ride.
Santa’s Speedway Sleigh leaves from a boarding station located near the HVAC Chill Hill at 6 and 8 p.m., every Wednesday and Thursday night, beginning Nov. 21.
Tickets, available at the station, are $8 per person. Groups can reserve the entire sleigh, but are asked to call in advance. Parking will be located in the North Entrance parking lot of BMS.
Speedway In Lights remains open through Jan. 5.
Tickets for the show, open from 6 to 10 p.m., nightly, are available at the BMS gate. Ticket prices for cars are $12, Sunday through Thursday; and $15, Friday and Saturday. Activity van tickets are $20 each night, and tickets for buses are $85 each night.
Both the Johnson Controls Ice Rink and HVAC Chill Hill will remain open through Jan. 13, closing each Monday for maintenance. A complete list of operating hours can be found at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com.
The Johnson Controls Ice Rink is the only rink within a 90-minute driving radius of BMS, making it one of the Speedway’s most popular non-motorsports-related events. In its 11th season, the rink has become a winter ritual for many, with thousands of skaters taking to the ice each year. The enclosed rink is located just inside the main entrance of Bristol Motor Speedway, off Highway 11E (Volunteer Parkway).
Cost to skate is $5, plus an additional $2 to rent skates.
Situated just outside Turn 1 of BMS, the HVAC Chill Hill is a 300-foot long snowless slide that features side-by-side lanes and inflated tubes on which riders sit as they rocket to the bottom of the slope.
Cost is $7 per person for a 50-minute session. Riders must be at least 48 inches tall to slide alone. Children can ride with someone 16 or older if they are at least 36 inches tall for an additional $3 cost for the pair.
For more information about Speedway In Lights, the Johnson Controls Ice Rink or HVAC Chill Hill, call BMS at (423) 989-6900.