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Green Bay Botanical Gardens light up the season

Samantha Bunker, Entertainment Writer
December 4, 2012
Filed under Entertainment, Top Stories

Mittens and winter coats might not seem like basic survival supplies for walking through an enchanted garden of giant insects, magical creatures and flowers. They are, however, at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens 16th Annual Wisconsin Public Service Garden of Lights.

Starting at 5 p.m. every weekend through Dec. 29, visitors can walk through the gardens to view various light displays sponsored by local businesses. Tickets are $4 for children and $7 for adults. Guests can view the garden from a horse-drawn wagon ride for an additional $4.

Guests follow winding trails to enjoy garden sights in LED lights.  Passing through giant flowers along with sights and sounds of a summer thunderstorm, visitors forget they are bundled in winter coats and mittens. Instead, they imagine themselves in a magical garden surrounded by life.

Many visitors often stop for pictures of their favorite displays.

“My son likes the spiders,” said Brenda Ganzel, GBBG visitor. “He loves those because they scare Grandma.”

Nancy Brzezinski accompanied Ganzel and her grandson, Christian, through the garden.

“My favorite was the mistletoe because I got to kiss my grandson,” Brzeznski said.

Guests are encouraged to dress warmly because the walk takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Following the tour, families can have their picture taken with Santa and warm up with hot chocolate, hot apple cider, coffee, cookies, chicken booyah and other refreshments in the Winterberry Cafe.

WPS Garden of Lights was designed to replicate the garden’s natural features by creating displays using more than 250,000 LED lights.  20,000 of those lights make up the giant caterpillar, the exit of the tour.

“I’ve been here before but many years ago,” said Diane Holsnik, GBBG visitor. “It has gotten a lot bigger since.”

New this year is a light display replicating the Mabel Thome Fountain, a focal point of the garden during the summer months. This replication, made of 7,000 blue and white lights, sprays light upward and is surrounded by twelve Adirondack crabapple trees dripping with more than 10,000 lights.

GBBG made sure to stay environmentally conscious. LED lights allow for more lights while using less energy than ever before.

“LED lights save about 90 percent of the energy from a traditional string of lights,” said Aubrey Brennan, GBBG marketing and communications manager. “For example, our giant caterpillar has more than 20,000 LED lights, and only needs one extension cord to power it. Not to mention, they’re much more vibrant than traditional lights.”

Not only are the lights more vibrant and energy efficient, but they also last up to five years longer than traditional lights.

With the amount of displays in the garden, preparations require a lot of planning. Dave Barkow, GBBG gardening and facilities supervisor, is the mastermind behind the displays. He recieves help from the Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College welding program to create frames for displays.

“We prepare for this event all year long restringing light displays and designing and building the new feature,” Brennan said. “Setup begins in early October in preparation for opening night the day after Thanksgiving.”

Guests are encouraged to dress warmly because the walk takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Following the tour, families can have their picture taken with Santa and warm up by  purching hot chocolate, hot apple cider, coffee, cookies, chicken booyah and other refreshments in the Winterberry Cafe.

GBBG is always looking for volunteers and there are many ways community members can get involved. Volunteers assist in stringing lights for displays, greeting guests, serving food and beverages and performing many other tasks.  Admission for volunteers is free.

For chances to volunteer, or more information about GBBG, visit gbbg.org.