Unseasonably cold weather won’t stop Rotary Botanical Gardens volunteers from putting on the annual holly, jolly and bright Holiday Light Show.
But it will slow them down.
Executive Director Becky Kronberg said it is difficult to hang lights in freezing weather, and it makes it almost impossible to nail signs into the frozen ground.
On its own, the show is a huge undertaking every year, she said.
On top of the frigid weather, this year’s light show will feature 250,000 more lights than last year’s, which included an astounding 500,000. And it all needs to be up and running before doors open for the first time Friday.
Fortunately, temperatures in the latter half of November are expected to stay above freezing. Kronberg said an icy fall likely won’t affect attendance, which has grown by 30,000 visitors across the last three years.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the gardens, and staff wants the annual holiday show to be bigger and better than ever, Kronberg said.
Beyond the increase in the number of lights, staff also has changed the show’s entrance and exit routes to provide better flow for foot traffic, Kronberg said.
The gardens also made “quite an investment” in signage to clearly mark the entrance and exit to keep everything moving in a one-way flow, she said.
That was in response to visitor feedback from recent years, Kronberg said.
Sunset Acres, a tree farm in Stoughton, donated 75 Christmas trees for this year’s light show. The trees will be placed in annual garden beds that are bare at this time of year, Kronberg said.
Each year the gardens tests new displays so the thousands of visitors—many of whom come back every year—never grow tired of the event, Kron-berg said.
Some displays stick around because they are undeniable fan favorites. The first that came to mind for Kronberg was the icicle lights that hang from the gardens’ tallest trees, she said.
The tall, hanging icicles immerse visitors in light and spark many “oohs” and “ahhs,” Kron-berg said.
“I think so many people are surprised to see a show of this caliber in Janesville,” she said. “A lot of people attend shows in larger cities, and the intimate feel the gardens gives you is one people have a hard time wrapping their heads around.”
The light show has become a tradition for people across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, but it also draws visitors from farther away, Kronberg said. Some locals bring family members visiting from locations as far away as California and Massachusetts, Kronberg said.
Other classics returning this year include the large Adirondack chair selfie spots and the big guy himself—Santa Claus.
Santa will be at the light show every Sunday and Thursday, and visits are included in admission costs, Kronberg said.
The light show also serves as one of the gardens’ largest fundraisers each year, Kronberg said. Last year was a record-breaking year for attendance as about 50,000 people visited during the 18-night run.
Kronberg said she doesn’t have a goal for this year’s attendance, but she hopes people will come out and enjoy the family-friendly experience.
“Their visit is a gift to the gardens,” Kronberg said.
Visitors can expect to spend 25 to 35 minutes strolling through the show, Kronberg said. Winter attire is encouraged.