Very Richmond #7: GardenFest of Lights


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The Conservatory is the centerpiece of Garden Fest of Lights

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has long been established as a top tourist destination in the Richmond area. It annually ranks in the five most-visited Richmond attractions and Garden Fest of Lights is a huge attraction, with almost 60,000 people visiting in 2008. 

GardenFest of Lights

The Christmas tree in The Conservatory

Richmond seems to love its holiday lights and Christmas, whether it’s the Grand Illumination, Legendary Santa, James River Parade of Lights or various incarnations of Tacky Lights tours. Lewis Ginter’s tops them all. 

After its first year in 1995, GardenFest quickly established itself as a Richmond Tradition.  The display uses more than half a million lights and the operation depends heavily on support from volunteers. It’s a fantastic show for all ages. 

After being a volunteer for GardenFest last year and helping put up lights and create displays, I got an appreciation for how much love and dedication goes into the operation. It’s a year-round event to plan and so much of the work is done by Richmonders who just want to contribute to something and make it great. 

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Trains in the library are a huge attraction

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Trains in The Conservatory

One of my favorites is the Virginia Train Collectors displays in the library and the Conservatory. Those fine people put a lot of heart and soul into the displays. Watching children’s faces as they watch the trains and push buttons with some displays is a treat in itself. 

I’m very connected to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden through my volunteering there and the fact that I live in Lakeside.  

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I helped make the butterflies in 2008

In Fall or 2008, I helped make several items for GardenFest after I had been laid off from Media General and it helped me to cope with losing my job. It gave me something to do and a place to belong. 

I helped create the two 14-foot tall butterflies that flanked The Conservatory last year, and now are on each side of the main gates at the entrance to the complex. My kids loved it and I joke that I’ve never gotten so much satisfaction from any “work” that I’ve done in my life! 

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I love the bulbs!

In years past when we’ve visited GardenFest, I’ve merely tried to corral my little kids or wander around for my favorite spots. This year, I’ve been “working” at night during the event and have seen the joy GardenFest brings to people first hand and heard the oohs and aahs and everyone’s highlights as they go. The first night I volunteered, there were more than 1,600 people in attendance — a staggering number, helping prove the popularity of the event. 

A new perspective, and I’ve loved it. Part of what makes me say that GardenFest of Lights is Very Richmond.

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