113017 Plugged in: Brookgreen Gardens lights up for the season
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Plugged in: Brookgreen Gardens lights up for the season

By Emily Topper
Coastal Observer

Before Thanksgiving, Brookgreen Gardens was buzzing with workers transforming the grounds into a holiday destination. Landscapers carefully placed bricks attached to floating candle jars in ponds. Volunteers climbed ladders and lifts to wrap strands of twinkling lights around tree branches.

Beginning at 3 p.m. today, Brookgreen Gardens will kick off this year’s Nights of a Thousand Candles. As one of the sculpture garden’s biggest fundraisers, the event runs for three weekends and sees between 50,000 to 60,000 guests.

“We have 5,500 candles that are lit by volunteers,” Page Kiniry, Brookgreen’s president and CEO, said. “It takes volunteers about an hour to light the candles. When it’s lit up at night … it’s just amazing.”

The event, Kiniry said, typically sells out with the purchase of advance tickets online.

“It’s a coveted ticket,” said Kiniry, who took over as president following the retirement of Bob Jewell earlier this year.

At this time last year, she was walking through the event with her predecessor.

“This will really be my first one,” Kiniry said.

New additions are included in this year’s display. As guests walk toward the gardens, they can experience the magic of the holidays as they enter the Jennewein Gallery, designed around scenes from “The Polar Express.” At the adjacent Noble Gallery, guests can enjoy art and themes that celebrate the Lowcountry.

As the sun sets, attendees will see sculptures of children built by students from Coastal Carolina University in Anne’s Garden.

“When you’re in here at night and it’s all dark, there are these playful children as silhouettes,” Kiniry said.

Guests will see surprises beyond the gardens, as well. Restaurants and volunteers donated wine bottles to create a wine bottle garden. Lights are placed beneath the bottles.

“At night, the colors really sparkle and it makes a paisley kind of design,” Kiniry said. “It’s new this year and it’s really beautiful. Volunteers cut the labels and tops off and designed the garden with Brookgreen employees.”

A fan favorite, the 85-foot fir tree that is adorned with over 100,000 lights, will be lit at 5:45 p.m. every night.

Kiniry said the staff works diligently to make sure guests have a great experience.

“The candles we use are purchased because they burn exactly the amount of time that we need them to for one day, and then they’re replaced,” Kiniry said. “We replace them in the morning the next day. We have a team of people that work on that.”

Guests can enjoy hot food and beverages as they stroll through the garden. Inlet Affairs will sell a catered dinner from 3:30 to 9 p.m. nightly, and the Old Kitchen will sell soups and snacks in the sculpture gardens.

Guests who buy advance tickets (888-718-4253) can change dates until 3 p.m. on the day marked on their ticket. Tickets are free for children under 3; $12 for children 4 to 12; and $20 for the general public. Discounted prices apply for members.

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