Christmas brings a whole new light to Rotary Gardens
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This year’s Holiday Light Show at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville is open to visitors between 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, Dec. 13 through Dec. 30. Photo by Rick West.
JANESVILLE — We all know the words to this classic Christmas song, “A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland.” For more than 15 years, this area’s winter wonderland has been as close as Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville.
This year’s Holiday Light Show at the gardens is open to visitors between 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, Dec. 13 through Dec. 30 (see related graphic on Page 2.)
Visitors can stroll through the 20-acre garden along pathways lit by more than 2,000 luminaries while enjoying the beauty of more than 300,000 multicolored lights and 75 decorated evergreens.
“It takes about eight weeks to set up, we start in early October,” said Mark Dwyer, director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens. “But prior to that we’re testing lights on rainy days — this year we didn’t have the rainy days — but in August and September we get the lights out to start testing and repairing.”
Dwyer said it also takes about eight weeks to take the displays down after the holidays. Last year more than 4,000 volunteer hours were recorded for setup and more than 5,000 volunteer hours for teardown.
This year’s display features five new LED animated displays, 60 decorated obelisks and 50 lit archways.
“This is a key fundraiser for Rotary Botanical Gardens … and even more important than that, it’s a really neat community event,” said Mary Fanning-Penny, the garden’s executive director. “It’s very family friendly and something that we all can enjoy — the magic of the season.”
Dwyer admits there is no elaborate blueprint when it comes to designing the annual light display.
“It’s as we go,” he said. “We try to mix it up each year. The route’s nearly identical, but we move the displays around.”
The Holiday Light Show also features several events for children, including make-and-take activities, visits by Santa Claus and even live reindeer and a camel.
“And almost every night we have local musicians, so whether that’s choral groups or madrigal choral groups, it’s all local talent,” Fanning-Penny said. “There’s also an electric model train display and a quilt display, so it really has something for everyone.”
Visitors to the Holiday Light Show also can do some of their holiday shopping at the garden’s Cottage Garden Gallery.
Fanning-Penny said last year’s Holiday Light Show shattered all attendance records with more than 10,000 visitors. This year, she’s hoping the event will exceed those numbers, enhanced by a $20,000 Joint Effort Marketing grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, to advertise the event throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
“So we’re really hoping that we not only draw members of our local community, but we also attract attendees from all over the region,” Fanning-Penny said.
The Holiday Light Show is expected to generate an economic impact of more than $340,000 from traveler spending at area hotels, restaurants and stores.
There are even overnight packages available, which include “Holiday Romance for Two” or “Festive Family Fun for Four” packages. For information, visit rotarybotanicalgardens.org or call (608) 752-3885.
“The … Holiday Light Show is truly a special event and the (state tourism) department is thrilled to provide promotional support to advance this event to the next level,” said Stephanie Klett, Wisconsin’s secretary of tourism, in a news release. “The additional marketing and advertising outside Rock County is sure to attract new visitors and introduce them to a wide range of tourism opportunities in Janesville.”
The cost of admission for the Holiday Light Show is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 to 15.
“It’s so beautiful,” Fanning-Penny said. “I think it’s magical and something the entire family can enjoy — and it’s affordable, too.”
Some facts about the Rotary Botanical Gardens 2012 Holiday Light Show:
-- 300,000 lights (20 percent are LED)
-- 100 individual displays
-- Five new LED animated displays
-- 60 decorated obelisks
-- 50 lit archways
-- 250 dangling icicle lights hung from 50-foot tall trees
-- 75 decorated evergreens
-- 20 wooden deer cutouts
-- 2,000 half-gallon milk jug luminaries
-- Six miles of extension cords
• 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec 13-16, 20-23 and 27-30
• Santa visits, Dec 13-16 and 20-23
• Live reindeer and camel, Dec. 22 and Dec. 23
• Kids Merry Make & Take activities, (for youth pre-K through fifth grade), 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 27 and Dec. 28
• Quilt and train raffles, Dec. 30
• Local musicians, most nights
• Holiday shopping at Cottage Garden Gallery
• Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for youth 3 to 15
For more information visit www.rotarybotanicalgardens.org or call (608) 752-3885.