With every pathway lined in lights, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens' first ever “Gardens Aglow” event premiered to around 200 special guests on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Gardens Aglow is the largest light display in Maine, according to Kris Folsom, director of marketing at the Gardens. The light display encompasses several of the gardens closest to the main building, including the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses, the Great Lawn, Burpee Kitchen Garden, and Bibby and Harold Alfond Children's Garden.
“The scope changed dramatically as we worked on the display,” Folsom said. “We started with 85,000 lights but by the time we were done we were almost at 200,000.”
Executive Director William Cullina said in a speech that night that every time he took a look at the display, he kept calling for more lights.
“We started working towards the end of August, wrapping what we could for trees,” Maintenance Technician Andy Wooster said. “We really got going once we closed down. Towards the end of October we really kicked it into high gear. There were so many dark spots we just kept ordering and we still have some more lights to put up in the daytime. Just a few more trees.”
In the Lerner Garden, according to Facilities & Projects Manager Adam Harkins, there will be a musical pulsating light display. There were a few technical difficulties Thursday night, so it was shut down, but was back in working order the next morning according to Folsom.
“This is part of our plan to turn the Boothbay region into a year-round destination,” Folsom said. “There is so much going on here in November and December – the Festival of Trees, Harbor Lights, the Polar Express at the Railway Village. So many stores are still open during this time of year too, for people to enjoy a local shopping experience. This region should be a destination during all seasons, and that is what we are striving towards.”
Visitors to the event were in awe of the display.
“It's just beautiful,” local business owner Kim Martin of Eventide said. “And with the dusting of snow that will soon be on the ground it'll be ever more amazing.”
“When we were walking up he was definitely loving it,” Valerie Young of Bigelow Laboratory said, referring to her son Conrad, nestled in the arms of his dad Tabor Young. “It's gonna be fun to see his reactions. The wonder of a 10-month old.”
“I'm 82 years old so I don't do as much as I used to; I'm not climbing ladders and stringing up lights,” Gardens volunteer BJ Dobson said, “But it's beautiful and they told me they could use my help when it's time to take it all down.”
Husband and wife Wells and Mollie Moore walked the path in the Lerner Garden, admiring the display. Wells described the sights to Mollie, who is blind. Mollie was the inspiration behind the Lerner Garden, and headed up the committee that created it.
“I lost my sight overnight in 2000,” Mollie Moore said. “We were in England at the time and when I got home one of my friends said her favorite garden growing up was the sensory garden in Brooklyn. We asked the board and they said 'it's on the books and you can head it up.'”
“Over the next seven years we traveled all over the world to visit different sensory gardens,” Wells Moore said. “We put it all together and this was the outcome.”
“Whatever your disability, you can still garden,” Mollie Moore said.
According to Cullina, all 200,000 lights are LED ones. These create little heat and use much less energy than traditional bulbs, so the entire display running for four hours every night uses about as much energy as a typical small home during the day.
“So there won't be any power flickers or mysterious blackouts at night when we turn it on,” Cullina said to the crowd with a laugh.
The Gardens Aglow event will be open to the public every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 21 through Dec. 31 from 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for kids. A family of four with two adults and two kids is $29. There are discounts for garden members. Tickets can be purchased on site or online ahead of time.