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Voltaic volunteers charged with stringing wire, changing lightbulbs, testing circuit breakers and toting extension cords have transformed the Wilson Botanical Gardens for Wilson Winter Lights.
Thursday was opening night for the annual Wilson Botanical Gardens fundraiser.
Visitors surely noticed the level ground they were walking on, as a five-foot-wide, 225-foot-long concrete walkway stretched through the heart of the gardens.
Cyndi Lauderdale, executive director of the Wilson Botanical Gardens, said last year’s Wilson Winter Lights display funded the $8,000 project.
“I think it will be an improved experience for all,” Lauderdale said.
This is the sixth year for Wilson Winter Lights.
“In our first few years, we only decorated the children’s garden,” Lauderdale said.
The fundraiser was so successful that organizers were able to establish the STEM Garden.
“Now the event runs through the STEM Garden, the Heritage Garden and the Children’s Garden,” Lauderdale said.
The event gets help from the junior ROTC programs at Fike and Hunt high schools, the Beddingfield High horticulture students and the Wilson Youth Council.
“We also have three committees to work on parking and ticketing and things like that,” Lauderdale said. “We really tried hard to improve in all areas from last year.
Beddingfield students last year adopted the event concessions but also decorate the Frosty Forest.
They are the only group that decorates beside the master gardeners,” Lauderdale said.
“We do have a lot of community sponsors that partner with us to allow us to decorate each area,” she added. “This could not be done without the volunteers. So for them to take so much time away during a very busy season just really pulls at my heartstrings and I just really appreciate all that they do.”
Sandy Goetz and Brenda Simpson, both Wilson County Extension Master Gardeners members, co-chair the event committee.
“I am hoping that Santa’s Snow Globes is going to be a big hit for Santa and all the little kids who visit him,” said Goetz, who has volunteered to help set up the event for the last six years. Goetz has been a master gardener for the last 18 years. “We kind of kicked it up a notch, so hopefully it will feel like the effect of being in a snow globe.”
“We are always adding more lights and we try to switch it up to make it a little different every year,” Goetz said. “Everybody looks for the Wish Tree. There will be a mailbox next to the Wish Tree with pens and tags and then you make your little wish and hang it on the tree.”
People always want to know how many lights there are.
“It’s thousands and thousands,” Goetz said. “We have 16 sponsored areas which are all sold out and all of them have probably close to 1,000 on each one. It’s just amazing. It’s thousands and thousands, that’s for sure.”
Wilson Winter Lights are up from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday and Dec. 12-16 at the Wilson Botanical Gardens behind the Wilson County Agricultural Center.
Admission is $5 per person.
Lauderdale expects big crowds this year.
“We have taken that into our thoughts into parking and things like that. We expect large crowds. If you can come on an off day during the week, we have Thursdays and Monday nights, those days tend to have less people,” Lauderdale said.