Nov 6th, 2016

Brighten the Night

Message from the Executive Director

Inspiration at Dominion GardenFest of Lights photo by Stephen & Lily Photography

Photo by Steven & Lily Photography

Right after lunch on the first Tuesday in August, the largest meeting space in the Robins Visitors Center was standing room only. Garden volunteers and staff had gathered to review the design and implementation of this year’s holiday light show, and those who arrived late were forced to pull chairs out of a closet and snug them against the back wall. To block out the brilliant summer sun, shades were drawn. Room lights were dimmed, a power point presentation was on the screen and at the front of the room a show-and-tell LED-light array was slowly changing colors. Senior horticulturist Shannon Smith toggled through her presentation, alternating slides showcasing evocative color and material with detailed descriptions of how we would make Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights come alive by the end of November. On cue, one staff member after another rose and spoke about his or her particular responsibility – special events, interpretive signage, model railroads, New Year’s celebrations … and so on.

When his turn came, Operations Manager Justin Brown “toured” everyone through 40 acres of nighttime outdoor gardens, filled with lights and forms, themes and designs. Most everyone followed him easily through the landscape he described because they knew it as well as their home neighborhoods. Justin brought out an LED-light array as well—a newly designed and manufactured light form—and the tall piece of fabricated metal got a round of applause. After the meeting, the room erupted in conversation as people broke into small groups to review some detail, make a plan for next steps or simply share a story.

I invite you to hang on to this scene. Difficult news of the world washes over us daily, and woes in our own lives can unmoor us. As the performer Nanci Griffith sings, “It’s a hard life, it’s a hard life, it’s a very hard life…” And yet, on a blistering summer afternoon, scores of people–colleagues who seem more like friends—gathered to share their best imagination and skill to brighten with vivid hues the upcoming long nights of winter. And they do it for you, our neighbors.

In a world where it is sometimes hard to know what to do, this is something we can do: brighten the night.

light rainbow of living color at Dominion GardenFest of Lights, photo by Stephen & Lily Photography

Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, photo by Steven & Lily Photography

Executive Director Shane Tippett's passion for plants was kindled in the early ‘90s by a Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden arborist who mentored him on the care of specimen trees. This passion underlies his firm conviction in the transformative power of gardens to re-shape and renew communities, families and individuals and this continues to direct his leadership.

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