Bellingrath Gardens to flip switch on 20th ‘Magic Christmas in Lights’ tonight

Bellingrath Gardens to flip switch on 20th ‘Magic Christmas in Lights’ tonight
Bellingrath Gardens and Home Magic Christmas in Lights 2015


If you’re looking for a truly illuminating tradition made right here in Alabama this holiday season, Bellingrath Gardens and Home is lighting the way beginning tonight with a fireworks extravaganza to celebrate its 20th year of “Magic Christmas in Lights.”

Bill Barrick, executive director of the storied south Mobile County attraction, called the dazzling annual five-week display a “perfect way for families to celebrate the holiday season.”

“This year’s show will be more magical than ever,” Barrick said, pointing not just to the 3 million lights adorning 1,000 handcrafted set pieces comprising 15 scenes throughout the 65-acre garden estate.

In addition to the opening night fireworks – slated to ignite the skies above the Great Lawn at 7 p.m. – the 2015 experience will include animated snowflakes, 8-foot water lilies aglow on Mirror Lake and blue track lighting enhancing the Underwater Garden, creating the effect of waves flowing overhead.

As for personal touches, Bellingrath spokeswoman Sally Pearsall Ericson confirmed all set pieces are designed and handmade on-site by the attraction’s staff, including two employees who work full time, year-round on the light display.

So what exactly does it take to keep 3 million lights burning for Magic Christmas in Lights’ duration?

Two generators and 18 separate electric meters, Ericson said.

Seasonal temperature differences and extended holiday hours make reliable energy consumption comparisons nearly impossible, she said, but the facility’s electric bill from April 29-May 29, 2015, totaled $12,386, or nearly 60 percent lower than the $19,690 billed Nov. 26-Dec. 29, 2014.

“That includes the costs of keeping all of the buildings up and running until 9-10 p.m. each night. We usually turn everything off by 5 p.m. (when the holiday lights are not on),” Ericson said.

Magic Christmas in Lights attendance has more than doubled since 2000, increasing from 35,309 to 73,260 in 2014. The attraction ranked sixth in USA Today’s 2014 “Best Public Lights Display” readers’ choice voting that included 20 nominees nationwide.

Beginning Nov. 25, the attraction will be open to visitors nightly from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. through Jan. 2 except on Christmas and New Year’s Day. The festivities include nightly choral performances on the South Terrace of the Bellingrath Home, which will be open for tours.

Photos can be taken with Santa Claus in the Magnolia Café. The Christmas in Lights Party Tent is available for holiday parties and an extra-special evening is planned for Saturday, Dec. 19, when the Coca-Cola Christmas Caravan arrives.

All active-duty military and their families will receive a 20 percent discount on Monday Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14, while Value Wednesdays will feature 20 percent off all regular gardens admission on Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

Click here for more information on Magic Christmas in Lights or to order tickets.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home encompasses roughly 900 acres along Fowl River. The 10,500-square-foot home was completed in 1936, designed by architect George B. Rogers for Walter D. Bellingrath, Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottler, and his wife, Bessie Morse Bellingrath. The couple opened the gardens to the public for the first time in 1932, and the home was opened as a museum in 1956.

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