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Candle power: Nights of 1,000 Candles light up Brookgreen

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Brookgreen Gardens will open its annual holiday light show “Nights of A Thousand Candles” this week with a new 80-foot fir tree twinkling with 70,000 lights in the arboretum.

Coordinator Jon McGann and his staff began putting strands of electric and battery-powered lights on trees Oct. 1. In addition to the decorated Chinese fir with its 700 strands of LED lights, new exhibits include the Peppermint Forest in the Children’s Garden and an Ice Garden in the Lower Left Wing. Strands of white lights resembling icicles hang from the limbs of the trees on the Oak Allee. The Fountain of the Muses glows with thousands of tiny lights strung from a pole in the center. The gardens many water features have hundreds of floating candles.

Christy Anouilh, manager of horticulture special events, said the electric lights are pretty but the candles make the show. “We pride ourselves on our candle work,” she said. “We’re kind of crazy that way.”

Volunteers and the staff begin lighting pillar and pedestal candles on show days at 4:30 p.m. and luminaries at 5. They are all burning by the time it’s dark at 6:30 p.m.

Anouilh said the title of the annual display sells the effort short. There are a lot more than a thousand candles. “We blew by that some time ago,” Anouilh said. There are 5,000 candles lit by hand for every show with hundreds of thousands of electric lights.

Brookgreen is introducing an interactive mobile app that will be free to download and will detail each day’s performances, food and beverage options, social media links and more. Search “Brookgreen Gardens” in the App Store or on Google Play.

The Brookgreen staff has made suggestions to help visitors get the most out of their experience: dress warmly, wear comfortable shoes, arrive early, carpool, and, if possible, attend on a Thursday to beat the crowds.

A limited number of adult and child strollers are available at no charge on a first-come, first-serve basis. Those with mobility issues or having difficulty walking or standing for extended periods of time should make appropriate arrangements. Camera tripods are not allowed.

Dinner, catered by Inlet Affairs, is available from 3:30 to 9 p.m. each evening and is served cafeteria-style in a large heated tent with inside seating. The menu features a variety of Lowcountry fare including seafood, BBQ, chicken bog and vegetarian options and is priced separately from the event admission. Reservations are not accepted. The Old Kitchen, located in the sculpture gardens, serves beverages, soup and snacks.

A beverage tent, located next to the main entertainment tent, offers hot and cold beverages.

Tickets for this year’s event are $18 for adults and $10 for children and are available at brookgreen.org, by calling (843) 235-6016 or at the gardens. Hours are from 3 to 10 p.m. beginning tonight and continuing Dec. 5-6, 11-13 and 18-20.

There is entertainment nightly. Highlights will be on the second weekend when Bill Oberst Jr. performs “A Christmas Carol” and the third weekend when Ron Daise does “Gullah Christmas.”

This week’s performers at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. include: Dan Kennedy, contemporary pianist; Roger Day, children’s music; Miller-Rowe Consort, guitar and dulcimer. Performers at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. include: Paul Grimshaw Band, pop-rock; Vocal Edition, pop choral ensemble; and Bates Holman jazz trio.

Dec. 11-13, 4 p.m. Paul Grimshaw (Thursday); Thistledown Tinkers, Celtic pop, (Friday and Saturday); Timmy and Susana Abell, children’s music. Performers at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. include: Ross Holmes Band, pop; Thistledown Tinkers (Thursday); Bates Holman & Friends (Friday and Saturday); Miller-Rowe Consort, 6 and 8 p.m.; Bill Oberst Jr., solo performance of “A Christmas Carol”; Paul Grimshaw (Thursday); Thistledown Tinkers (Friday and Saturday); Timmy and Susana Abell.

Dec. 18-20 at 4, 6 and 8 p.m.: Barbara Bailey Hutchison, singer-songwriter, (Thursday and Friday); Palmetto Bronze, handbell ensemble, (Saturday); Bella Corda, guitar ensemble; Ron Daise, Gullah Christmas (at 6 and 8 p.m. only). Performers at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. include: Palmetto Bronze (Thursday and Friday); Barbara Bailey Hutchison (Saturday); Paul Grimshaw Band; and Vocal Edition.

Peggy Gaudreau will stroll the gardens playing bagpipes between performances every night.

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