The St. Helens-based Columbia Humane Society is this year’s presenting sponsor for the Winter Wonderland monthlong event at the Portland International Raceway, organizers announced earlier this month.

Winter Wonderland, which opened Thursday evening and runs through Christmas Day, bills itself as “the northwest’s largest drive-through holiday light show.”

Columbia Humane Society was approached to sponsor the event by Portland-based X Factor Advertising after forming a relationship with the company through X Factor Advertising’s chief executive officer, Thad Smith, who directed the film “Everyman’s War.” The no-kill shelter helped promote a screening of the film for the Independence Day holiday this year.

“The sponsorship was gifted to us, so there was no charge for it — and how could we not say yes?” said Dean Cox, executive director of Columbia Humane Society, on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Cox added, “It’s just an amazing opportunity, and it puts us, it puts our brand out there to 2 million people in the Portland metro area who don’t know we exist, or might not know that we exist.”

On Monday, Dec. 2, Columbia Humane Society will have a presence at “Gentech Dentist Walk Night,” an opportunity for people to walk — “with or without a dog,” the humane society’s website adds — along the track and view the light displays while the track is closed to vehicles.

The fee for the walk is $6 per adult, with a portion of proceeds going to the Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that provides pet food to families in need. Donations of pet food in sealed, unopened containers will also be accepted.

A Columbia Humane Society “supporters’ night” will also be held Dec. 11 as part of the event, and shelter volunteers will also be at the raceway on Dec. 13, Dec. 14, Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, expected to be Winter Wonderland’s busiest nights.

Winter Wonderland is open to the public starting at 5 p.m. seven days per week, closing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Some 100,000 participants are expected, according to a recent Columbia Humane Society newsletter.

Cox said sponsoring the event is equivalent to $250,000 in advertising, and the group expects to receive donations as well. He said a previous sponsor received $1,000 per night when they had a presence at Winter Wonderland.

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