The Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden won first place in USA Today’s Top 10 competition, making it a reader’s choice for the best botanical garden holiday lights in the country.
For the past two years, GardenFest of Lights has ranked second in USA Today’s Top 10 Readers’ Picks competition. But it took first place this year.
The Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Garden in Alabama came in second place, and the Aglo Gardens at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens came in third.
For the past five years, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania has placed first in the Top 10 Gardens competition. But this year, Longwood has taken itself out of the running.
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“After winning for five years, we decided to take a step back and allow some of our other fellow parks to receive accolades through these awards,” said Nick Daddizio of Longwood.
Longwood Gardens was also temporarily closed twice in September this year after escaped killer Danilo Cavalcanti was seen in the gardens on CCTV. Chester County, Pennsylvania spent two weeks on edge until Cavalcanti was found and arrested.
The display at the Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights features more than a million lights, a bird’s nest maze, and floral decorations throughout the garden representing the four seasons.
There are 115 trees wrapped in the display and over 27 miles of light string. The Darlington Oak, one of the large trees on display, took 50 hours to complete, with 187 strands, 9,350 bulbs and one mile of lights, taking two tree climbers four days to climb. More than 250 volunteers helped prepare for the show and logged more than 8,945 hours. It takes three months to install the lights and year-long preparation and planning work to complete GardenFest.
“It is an honor to be continually recognized in such highly respected gardens across the country,” said Brian Treder, president and CEO of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. “We are grateful to all who voted for us, and this is especially appropriate given that this is the 25th anniversary of our sponsorship by Dominion Energy. The Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is an event created by our community for our community and we are honored to share it with neighbors near and far.”
A highlight this year is an installation by local artist Kyle Epps titled “Rhythms of Light Oji Waibinasu.” The artist painted this illuminated tapestry over three days in the park as an offering to the spirits of Central Virginia.
GardenFest has become a holiday tradition in the Richmond area and features wraparound trees, model trains, hot chocolate, a cozy bonfire, s’mores and more. This tradition began in 1995 and has continued for 27 years.
Last year, the GardenFest of Lights attracted more than 135,000 visitors.
GardenFest time periods begin at 4pm and continue until 8:30pm. Tickets are $17 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-10.
Louis Ginter Botanical Garden is located at 1800 Lakeside Ave. In Henrico County. Find more information at lewisginter.org.
Photos: GardenFest of Lights at Louis Ginter Botanical Garden