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by Garrett McLees, Public Relations & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Some favorites from last year's GardenFest. Photo by Don Williamson Photography

Awe & wonder at last year's GardenFest. Photo by Don Williamson Photography

I arrived at Lewis Ginter in early September, and even though  it was months away, it didn’t take long for me to hear about Dominion GardenFest of Lights, or GardenFest, as most folks call it around here.   For some, GardenFest  is the most anticipated event of the year.  GardenFest begins in just 7 days and I cannot wait to attend this year! GardenFest has been expanding in popularity and scale over the years. This year, not only will there be the usual favorites at GardenFest, there will be several new additions.

The theme for this year’s GardenFest is “Nature’s DeLIGHTS.” The illumination will be November 25 and is the perfect kick-off celebration for the holiday season, especially if you have family visiting for Thanksgiving.  Doors  open at 5 p.m. and the festivities start at 5:30 p.m.  Watch linemen from Dominion Power and the GardenKeeper “flip the switch” — the official start to GardenFest. This year on illumination night only, we have a special treat for you:  a laser lights show. The electric performance of enchanting visions, animation and music will captivate you.  After the laser show the Garden will be open for visitors to explore and enjoy.

The laser show isn’t the only new attraction at this year’s GardenFest. Another important addition to the display will be the illumination of Patrick Dougherty’s “Diamond’s in the Rough” stick sculpture. Since its addition in May, the sculpture has been a wonderful and whimsical addition to the Garden. During GardenFest, visitors will be able to approach the sculpture through a 250-foot tunnel of lights and see mystical characters who are calling the sculpture home during the holiday season.

Another new addition to this year’s GardenFest of Lights will be the oversized “LOVE” artwork provided by the Virginia Tourism Corporation and featured in the Rose Garden. The 8-foot tall and 16-feet wide letters spelling “LOVE” provide the perfect photo opportunity. Other notable features of the light display will include a dragon in the Asian Valley, “Spider Island”, oversized veggies in the Children’s Garden, and a larger-than life peacock with a walk-through tail arch. During GardenFest you may also enjoy  s’mores around the firepit , holiday train displays, family photos at the  grand holiday tree in the Conservatory, and two light mazes.

There is something special and unique happening at GardenFest almost every night.

Last year's GardenFest featured Hans Godo Frabel's glasswork. Photo by Don Williamson Photography

Last year's GardenFest featured Hans Godo Frabel's glasswork. Photo by Don Williamson Photography

Monday’s during GardenFest will be “very merry”, featuring fireside story time with the GardenKeeper and visits from the Butterfly Fairy in the Library Reading Room. There are also chances for Santa “sightings” in the Conservatory. Tuesdays are “Caroling Tuesdays” with Barbershop quartets meandering through the Garden to serenade you. The music continues on “Musical Thursday’s,” when there will be acoustic musicians performing festive entertainment in the Library.

There will also be “Member Nights” when all Garden members are granted free admission to the Garden. As another special treat for members on Member Nights, the historic Bloemendaal House will be open for touring.

This year we’ll feature 3 full nights of “GardenFest for Fidos.” On select Thursdays leashed pets will be allowed to enjoy the festivities with a suggested $2 pet admission to benefit Richmond SPCA.

After learning about all of the exciting events at Lewis Ginter during GardenFest, I am having a hard time deciding when to come. I do not want to miss next week’s opening night laser lights show. I would also love to bring my dog (a Westie named Maggie) to see the Garden and I definitely want to bring my family to see the Garden. Of course, I would like to tour the illuminated and historic Bloemendaal House during a member night. But really, there is no wrong time to visit GardenFest. You may even see me walking around the Garden taking photos, trying to find my way out of a maze, or walking my dog Maggie. I hope to see you there.

Here’s a video that from last year’s GardenFest to get you in the mood:

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