Janesville's Holiday Light Show makes twilight sparkle

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

JANESVILLE—Just when you think the Holiday Light Show at Rotary Botanical Gardens can't get any better, organizers dazzle you with more of everything.

The 2013 fundraiser is “absolutely spectacular with 30,000 more lights over 2012. The magnitude takes up such a bigger footprint the way it is arranged this year. It is just incredible,” said Mary Fanning-Penny, executive director.

The walk-through show has a record 330,000 lights, and for the first time, the route will take visitors through the Japanese Garden.

The entertainment lineup also has been expanded, and "Ugly Sweater Night" has been added Friday, Dec. 13—the first night of the show. You know that sweater you thought was so festive when you bought it years ago? Pull it out and get into the holiday spirit.

Since it began in 1996, the light show has become a family tradition that changes every year—just like the gardens.

“It's going to be a completely different experience than in the past,” Fanning-Penny said.

The gardens staff hopes to build on the momentum of 2012's record crowd of 13,000.

“We are continuing to invest significantly in regional advertising and keeping our fingers crossed for the weather to cooperate. All indicators are that we are on track for another successful year,” she said.

If you've visited the light show before, you'll have a few more reasons to return this year.

1. More lights. Some 30,000 new lights have been added to the display. That means more sparkle and twinkle for everyone in the family.

2. New animated displays. These displays, including a rocket ship blasting off, are popular with children and add another fun, interactive element to the show. Try looking at them with 3-D glasses for a kaleidoscope effect.

3. Santa. Photos can be taken with jolly old St. Nick during his 5:30 p.m. visits Friday through Sunday, Dec. 13-15, and Thursday through Monday, Dec. 19-23.

4. Live reindeer and a camel. These animals are synonymous with the holiday season. They'll be at the gardens Sunday and Monday, Dec. 22 and 23, for families to see and photograph.

5. Concessions. Cookies, hot chocolate and pizza will be sold. Most food and beverages cost $1; pizza costs $2.

6. Quilt and electronic model train displays. Decorating the gardens' main building will be hand-sewn quilts from the Rock County Quilters Guild and a 200-foot electric model train display provided by the Wisconsin Garden Railway Society. Quilt and train raffle tickets will be sold each night for $1 or six for $5. Winners will be drawn Sunday, Dec. 29.

7. More musical entertainment. High school and adult musicians will offer live music on eight of the 12 nights of the show—sometimes two performances per night. Music starts at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 13-15, 19-20 and 27; at 5 p.m. Dec. 21; at 6 p.m. Dec. 28; and at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13-15 and 19-21.  

8. Holiday shopping. Artwork by local artists will be on sale in the Cottage Garden Gallery Gift Shop at the gardens.

People of all ages should find something they like at the light show, Fanning-Penny said.

“It's not only a local but a regional tradition—unlike anything in our immediate area—that we're very proud of.”

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