The annual Holiday Light Show at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville in 2017 set an attendance record. The 2018 version has already broken that record.


With one weekend to go, Rotary Gardens has already broken its attendance record for the Holiday Light Show.

Unseasonably warm weather helped attendance approach 50,000, breaking last year’s record high of 46,000, Rotary Gardens Executive Director Becky Kronberg said. This weekend’s forecast includes more comfortable weather, which should draw plenty more visitors for Saturday and Sunday evenings, the last two nights of the popular Christmas lights display.

The light show also broke its single-day attendance record this year with more than 7,300 visitors traveling the lighted trails Dec. 15. In comparison, the Saturday night two weeks before Christmas in 2017 brought in 6,400 people, Kronberg said.

Newfound social media attention has helped the event gain popularity the past several years. The previous record of 46,000 people last year shattered 2016’s record, which was about 26,000 people, she said.

The light show, finishing up its 23rd year, has become a popular photo hotspot for couples, families and visitors from near and far.

“People want to come when it’s nice enough they can be outside for a period of time, take pictures, enjoy themselves and not be frigid,” Kronberg said. “The weather has helped, and that was the case last year. That has really helped our numbers, certainly. A lot of people are making it a family tradition.”

What’s most impressive about the attendance record is that Rotary Gardens had to cancel two nights because of bad weather—an ironic twist. And the way the calendar fell meant the 2018 show already had one fewer night on the schedule compared to last year.

That means final 2018 attendance numbers will include tallies from 18 nights instead of 21 nights like last year. The success is “unfathomable,” Kronberg said.

The Holiday Light Show is Rotary Gardens’ biggest fundraiser of the year, and she estimated the display will generate roughly $260,000.

The money helps the organization plant flowers and maintain gardens throughout the summer. Kronberg encourages people who enjoyed the Christmas lights display to return to the gardens when it’s warm and the flowers are in full bloom.

Rotary Gardens staff will begin the massive undertaking of taking down, testing and storing lights for the offseason in mid-January. The process takes about two and a half months.

Workers will begin decorating for next year’s show in August 2019, Kronberg said.