BENSON — The “oohs” and “aahs” were quickly discernible Saturday upon simultaneous release of the numerous lanterns into the autumn night sky.

The awe-inspiring spectacle is what the masses had been waiting for on the driving range at San Pedro Golf Course, site of the City of Benson’s Second Annual Lantern Festival. Set to appropriate music, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” filled the airwaves as the lit lanterns made their upward and majestic ascension.

Benson Mayor Toney King had earlier hailed the event as one held for enjoyment of the entire family, and the type of event the city will continue to provide for its citizens.

“This is a great family event… and it’s great to see all the families out enjoying this beautiful evening,” said King. “This is really awesome, we have people here from all over, we’re happy they chose to come to Benson and we hope that they’ll be back to our city.”

Benson City Manager Vicki Vivian concurred.

“It’s been a great success,” said Vivian, looking out over the large crowd assembled. “It’s a great day and a great family event that’s budget friendly and it gets people out, showing off the golf course and people are having great time.” Vivian said she was pleased by the community’s turnout. “...It started a little slow but they’ve been trickling in all night. “I’m definitely pleased,” she said, estimating attendance at about 2,500.

Many in attendance marveled at the perfect evening and venue with families sprawled on blankets or seated in lawn chairs with a full roster of food and other vendors on hand.

Vanette Pettis, a Sierra Vista resident, was there with her family. “I think it’s great,” she said, noting she’d return for a third festival. Sue Dupee of Mescal was there with her group of about 20 Homicide Survivors who are based in Tucson. “It’s amazing, the turnout is great and the city is doing a great job,” she said. The “Kids Zone” proved a popular attraction with the youngsters, while attendees mingled and danced to the country or rock tunes playing over the Public Address system. The unmistakable aroma of food was enough to entice long lines at one of the many food vendors.

The night went off without a hitch… the lantern release was delayed about 15 minutes as people continued to make their way into the driving range. “It’s been a great evening, and we’re looking forward to bringing more family-oriented events and activities to the driving range at our golf course,” said Vivian. “We’re extremely appreciative of all the hard work that went into organizing this event and we’re very happy by the number of people who came out.”

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