The 2020 Merriweather Symphony of Lights is scheduled to begin on November 25th…but there is still some question if it will happen. The case (whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would stop Symphony of Lights) before the Circuit Court For Howard County (Case Number: C13CV20000479) had a hearing yesterday and another hearing is scheduled for today starting at 9:30am:

The best breakdown of what has been happening for months on this topic can be found on the local blog The Merriweather Post. Here is the latest update from that blog: Columbia Association Seeks Injunction to stop Symphony of Lights. That article has the latest happenings and a number of links to past articles that will give you a good rundown of the history up to this point.

The website for the 2020 Merriweather Symphony of Lights has been selling tickets and according to their FAQ (Q: What is your refund policy? A: Refunds are not available)…wonder if that is true if the event is canceled by court order…hmmm?


Now lets talk about the event and COVID-19. The drive through part of the event there are no issues…you are in your vehicle and no issues with social distancing.

The event has three scheduled walk through nights (November 29th, December 7th and December 31st). The event does list some COVID-19 precautions:

Due to the pandemic, we have changed our ticketing system. All walk through tickets are available at 10 minute intervals. So to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all attendees, please read through our safety precautions:

  • Face coverings are mandatory at all times
  • For your chosen time slot, you are only allowed to enter in that 10 minute window. For example, your 5:00PM ticket allows you entry until 5:10PM only
  • Please remain in your vehicle until your allotted time
  • For Midnight On The Hour, we encourage you to bring your own chairs so you can set up along the walking course at a safe distance from each group
  • Unfortunately, no food trucks or extra family activities are available this season

One has to wonder with the new COVID-19 restrictions announced by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball “Howard County Executive Announces Additional Gathering Restrictions; limits for 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors” if this will change anything related to the walk though nights.

The 2020 Merriweather Symphony of Lights would seem to fall in to the category of “festivals” and so will they limit the number of people at any one time to 25 during the walk through nights per the Howard County Restrictions?

Also given the resent announcement from Governor Hogan related to enforcement actions “Governor Hogan Announces Launch of All-Hands-on-Deck COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement Operation” will there be a presence from Howard County Health Department, Howard County Police and possibly the Maryland State Police to ensure that the event organizers are following the Executive Orders from the State and County?

Obviously everything hangs on what happens in court today and if the Columbia Association (CA) and Inner Arbor Trust (both listed as plaintiffs in this case) are successful in shutting down this event in 2020 or not. I can imagine that if those entities are successful in their court case there will be A LOT said online about this event that supports the Howard County General Hospital and the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission and the fact that it will not happen (this year of all years). I can not image that CA or the Inner Arbor Trust will come out looking good in the local community if they stop this event from happening (that is just my opinion).

I would highly recommend following The Merriweather Post blog for the latest updates (he is much more on top of this topic than I have been): I will try to have a follow up of some sort in the future as well for my readers.

Scott E


  1. what is left out is that in the past (excluding last year or maybe the last few years) this event changed from a mostly if not completely fundraiser for the hospital, yet now it is mostly for profit and very little if any goes to the hospital. I have no compassion for for-profit group not being able to take advantage of CA. Also last year they did allot of damage to CA land both during before and after this event.
    Now if they change to a completely non profit fundraiser for the hospital (especially when we are so taxing HCGH with covid) then I think it would be different.

    • According to a letter from the president of the hospital:
      Last year, we asked Event Consulting and Management, the local company that had operated the event for the past 25 years, to run the event again, and they did a great job. We’d like them to do it again this year. Effectively, it’s the same arrangement that’s been in place for years, with the company receiving money for their services, and the hospital receiving resources for patient care.

      I want to be clear about a couple of points and clear up some misinformation: Symphony of Lights absolutely continues to be an event that benefits the caregivers at Howard County General Hospital.

      I’ve read that some people are saying this is no longer a hospital event – that a private company is reaping all the benefits. That’s simply not true. The Howard Hospital Foundation received $75,000 from Symphony of Lights last year.

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