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Throughout A Longwood Christmas, one of the highlights of the season is our light display featuring over a half-million twinkling LED lights in various colors. Creating this display takes months of hard work by various departments at Longwood.
“Christmas is such a magical time at Longwood and a large part of the experience is all of the colorful lights. As in everything we do here, it is always a team effort that gives the best results,” says Jim Sutton, display designer.
A variety of staff, including designers, electricians, and metal shop workers ensure that the display shines bright each year.
The staff members most involved in our light display are our arborists. This small team of five is responsible for hanging 4,300 strands of lights on 115 trees and forms throughout the outdoor Gardens.
“It’s not uncommon for arborists to hang Christmas lights, but it’s usually not quite to the same scale as it is at Longwood,” explains Merton Labare, arborist.
Because of the large scale of Longwood’s display, planning usually begins about a year in advance before the previous year’s Christmas season has come to a close. Working with Longwood’s display designer, a special committee, the Outdoor Christmas Lighting Committee, reviews the previous year’s display and makes suggestions on how to make the following year’s display more interesting and unified.
After several months worth of mock-ups and concepts have been made and reviewed, the display is finalized by mid-April. At that time, Longwood orders its lights for the Christmas display.
“We order early so we can get better pricing and ensure lights arrive in time,” says Labare.
By August, our arborists are ready to start hanging lights. Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks is hanging a star 75 feet high from the Copper Beech on the north side of the Open Air Theatre. To do this, one of our arborists climbs up the tree to place the ornament.
After 1500 to 1600 hours of work over the course of several months, the arborists usually finish hanging lights two weeks before the start of A Longwood Christmas. Although the hardest part may be over, their job doesn’t end there.
“During the Christmas season, we continually work to maintain the lights and fix strands that may go out due to weather, guests, and the occasional furry creature,” explains Labare.
At the close of each holiday season, the arborists then remove the lights in approximately 500 hours. With the help of volunteers, they then test, count, wrap, and sort the removed lights so they may be reused the following year.
“We may hang the lights, but the display really demonstrates teamwork at Longwood. Electricians ensure we have the power sources we need, the metal shop creates many of the structures for our free-standing displays, and the display division covers design aspects to ensure that horticulture and Christmas work together day and night,” says Labare.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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