The Denver Botanic Gardens has always been an oasis in the city, but during the holiday season, it’s also a winter wonderland. Nearly a half a million individual lights dot the expanse of the gardens, enhancing shrubs, trees and terrain. A record-breaking year, more than 130,000 people attended Blossoms of Light in 2016, an increase of more than 37,000 over 2015.
Staff attribute the increase to Denver Botanic Gardens being more present in the public’s mind both on a local and national level thanks to the 2014 Chihuly exhibit and the notoriety of the Corpse Flower in 2016. “It’s our largest public event of the year,” says Allison Kiehl, associate director of events. “It’s a big revenue driver for us, especially in the winter months when attendance is lower.”
Denver Botanic Gardens began Blossoms of Light in 1988. Every year, the number of lights and span of the show increases.
This year will be the first in which 100 percent of the lights are LED. “Using LED lights takes way less power so we are able to put more strings of lights onto the same power circuit than incandescent,” says Kristi Horvath, senior events coordinator and co-lead with Kiehl on the project.
Installation for the winter show begins right after Labor Day with final touches being added until mid-November. Everything comes down in January. Designing the shows starts a year in advance, however, with Kiehl and Horvath talking about the 2018 show before 2017 has even begun. They change the colors and design schemes of approximately two-thirds of the show to make sure they have something fresh for guests to see each year. They also plan the viewer’s experience, making sure there are complementary colors to enjoy at every turn. Kiehl and Horvath also handle less artistic, but important logistics from ticketing to snow removal, to path closures.
Kiehl worked on Blossoms of Light by herself for several years, but in 2016, with the increase of visitors to the Gardens, Horvath joined the efforts so they could expand the show. Together, they have learned a lot about power requirements, stringing lights across 23 acres of gardens and how much squirrels like to chew on power cords, resulting in the need to restring and repair sections of lights.
As in years past, there will be carolers some nights of the show, food and drink options, and Halospex glasses to purchase that enable guests to see either snowflake or snowman shapes in every twinkly light they view.
New this year, there will be several guarded exit points on the one-direction path, allowing parents with a crying child or someone in need of a restroom break to veer off the path. This is also the first time there will be a nightly limit to the number of tickets sold to keep crowd size lower for a better guest experience. Kiehl and Horvath also offer these tips: purchase tickets in advance, attend in the first two weeks of the show and arrive after 7:30pm.