WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Enchanted Airlie has been making sprits, and Wilmington, bright for 15 years. But what does it take to make the light show display sparkle and bring back people every year?
We found out.
“Enchanted Airlie is our holiday light show," said Janine Powell with Airlie Gardens. "It’s a walking experience. You drive in, park your car, get the whole family out, and walk through the gardens. There are different light displays throughout the gardens as well as Santa Claus in our classroom.”
It takes 12 months, seven staff members, several volunteers, and close to a million lights to make Enchanted Airlie happen.
“It’s as close to a million as we can get and 99.9 percent of our lights are LED," said Janine. “We’ve really gone to that more energy efficient, they have a longer life, and the quality of light is really amazing.”
Lights cover about half of the gardens which about 37 acres.
Here’s how it goes: after Enchanted Airlie from the previous year has ended, the staff takes down all the lights, fixes anything that is broken, takes inventory and then carefully stores it all. From February through April, the staff plans, researches, and orders anything needed for that year’s light displays. Light strands then start getting tested in May and that continues through the summer and, finally, lights begin to go up in August.
Janine says there are some new displays each year, but the staff likes to keep up with tradition because that’s what brings guests back.
Displays like the bottle trees, for instance, are always a crowd-pleaser, but those take a lot of work; 30 hours to be exact.
“Every year, that has to come out, all the lights have to rewind, all the bottles have to be checked, filled and it has to be assembled," said Janine. "All these bottles have to be put on one-by-one and all the light strands wrapped.”
Janine says a few volunteers look for bottles to go on the bottle trees all year long.
“It is labor-intensive, but we like to think it’s a labor of love,” said Janine.
This year Enchanted Airlie is celebrating 15 years and is close to hitting half a million people who have visited the gardens for the lights.
Tickets go on sale each year in early October. The first day they were on sale this year, the first two weekends of Enchanted Airlie were completely sold out. So if you’re reading this now and didn’t get a ticket, be sure to make your calendars for next year.
For those who have a ticket, remember it’s a rain or shine event so be sure to check the forecast before heading to the gardens.