Oct 29th, 2015

Behind the Scenes at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights: H2Whoa!

Volunteers working on tentacles and making clouds for GardenFest.

Volunteers working on octopus tentacles and making clouds for Dominion GardenFest of Lights: H2Whoa!

Are you ready for this year’s Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights?  I have behind-the-scenes access and will give you a sneak peek to a few of the treats you will see with this year’s H2Whoa! theme.  Last week, 45 volunteers and staff worked on  finishing touches of decorations for this year’s show. Everyone was enthusiastic and willing to lend a hand in creating the whimsical props to go with this year’s water theme. Clouds, fish, soda bottle flowers, and octopus tentacles were just a few decorations that the dedicated workers were creating.

Staff and volunteers making flowers out of recycled bottles.

Staff and volunteers making flowers out of recycled bottles.

GardenFest Coordinator (and horticulturist) Shannon Smith, staff, and volunteers have been brainstorming ideas all year and a papier-mâché octopus seemed like the perfect mascot to bring this year’s water theme to life. We’ve incorporated water — H2Whoa! — into the theme this year to highlight our dedication to educating the community about the positive impact that we can all have on our water quality.  Don’t be surprised if in between the oohs and aahs of half a million GardenFest lights, we sneak in a little information about how you can conserve water and make a difference in your own home.

“I want people, especially children, to think about water in a broad way,” says Smith. While visitors are enjoying the views of the underwater theme, they’ll also be learning a few fun facts about water.  For example, did you know that rainbows and clouds are made out of water?  Have you ever stopped to think how water affects our lives everyday? Do you know the benefits of rain barrels? During GardenFest you’ll learn about all these topics!  Plus, you can follow a school of fish in a “river” in the Kelly Education Center hallway to learn more about water and how to help improve our own Virginia rivers.

The beginning stage of "Octavia" the octopus.

The beginning stage of “Octavia” the octopus before she is painted and put out for display in the Conservatory.

Personally, I’m most excited to see “Octavia,” the octopus, come to life. You’ll find Octavia in the Conservatory during GardenFest, as part of  an “underwater” experience. Artist and Garden volunteer Debbie Guckert is the creative genius behind Octavia the octopus. Octavia is made out of chicken wire, stretchy fabric, papier-mâché, and cast resin eyes. Guckert has done her research on octopuses (or is it octopi?) to give visitors a realistic view of what an octopus would look like.  When you visit Octavia during GardenFest, pay close attention to her eyes. We hope she makes you go  “Whoa!” with the way her eyes follow your every move.

When you come visit this year’s Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, you’ll see more than lights.  You’ll see the creativity, hard work, and love that our staff and volunteers have poured into this year’s fabulous theme. GardenFest kicks off November 27 and runs nightly from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. through January 11, 2016 (we are closed Dec. 24-25).

Now that you have behind-the-scenes details, I hope to see you and all of your eight-legged friends at this year’s Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights!

Tonisha Albritton is a PR & Marketing intern at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She loves to interact and meet with new people. When she's not in school or working, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her family.

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