Mendocino Botanical Gardens Presents 13th Annual Festival of Lights – Fort Bragg Advocate-News
All kinds of creatures appear along the illuminated paths at the Festival of Lights at Mendocino Botanical Gardens (Photo by Mary Benjamin-Fort Bragg Advocate-News)
FORT BRAGG, Calif. – The 13th annual Festival of Lights, presented by Mendocino Botanical Gardens with Santa, opened last weekend, bringing the holiday season to the Coast. The event will be open to the public on weekends, from December 1 to December 17, Friday through Sunday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
According to Roxanne Perkins, the parks communications director, the event first evolved in 2010 with an old boat decorated with lights that staff placed in the park’s permanent area for visitors to enjoy. Since that first show, the staff has developed an annual light show that has evolved over the years.
“The company is still run by employees and volunteers, and everything is handmade,” Perkins noted. “Gardeners have become experts in lighting,” she added. The preparation process begins on October 1, and with the help of some volunteers once a week, the gardeners find time every day to work on it.
This year, Perkins announced, “The light show consists of thousands of strands of point, icicle, and string LED lights spread across a quarter-mile of illuminated paths with eight themed vignettes to explore.” Many of the lighting scenes required rebar support, all of which was created by director Pete.
Also, this year, there’s a new episode in the North Forest Conifer segment, what Perkins describes as a “cool space-themed show involving a triceratops.” At the entrance entrance, a new “quiet zone” welcomes visitors.
The Mendocino Botanical Gardens is a nonprofit organization, but does not view the Festival of Lights as a major funding source. “We wanted to do this for the community,” Perkins explained. “The ticket price is always the same every year.”
However, the Festival of Lights attracts an average of 9,000 people each year. According to Perkins, it’s one way to get people into the gardens during the slowest time of the year before January, when there are few new flowers for visitors to see.
At the festival, visitors can also visit the gift shop decorated for Christmas, which has many unique items for purchase. Fresh wreaths will also be sold. The Holiday Café will be open selling hot cocoa, hot cider and baked goods. Cash and Venmo will be accepted.
Santa will meet, greet and take pictures every Sunday except for the deadline of December 17. Staff also encourage visitors to use the illuminated displays as backdrops for family photos.
Tickets are $10, children under 16 are free. Tickets are valid for any day and at any time in the evening. Tickets are available upon arrival at the gift shop or can be purchased online at www.gardenby the sea.org/FOL.
The event will be held regardless of weather conditions, and visitors must dress appropriately. Check the Gardens website for any last-minute changes, such as a music group appearance.
Parking is always limited, and this year, the Gardens is offering a free shuttle located just north of the Gardens in the Swithenbank Construction parking lot at Hwy 18631. The shuttle will begin at 4:45 PM and end at 6:45 PM.
Wheelchairs will be available for visitors with mobility issues; However, dogs are not allowed.
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