Living

Callaway Gardens twinkles during Fantasy in Lights

Thousands of people drive through Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy in Lights every year. Families have the option of driving their own vehicles or riding the Gardens’ Jolly Trolley.

And every year, more than 5,000 people walk through FIL during the March of Dimes’ Nightwalk the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Walkers can still register at the March of Dimes office, 6501 Veterans Parkway (even though its address is on Veterans, the parking lot entrance is on Whittlesey Road).

FIL opened in 1992 with five scenes. There are now more than a dozen lighted scenes with music and animation.

While there aren’t any new scenes this year, Gardens media and public relations manager Rachel Crumbley said they’re keeping up with technology.

“We have changed more lights over to the brighter LED lights,” she said.

FIL opens Friday and runs through Dec. 30.

Fun facts

How many lights?: The total show includes eight million lights. This is equivalent to the number of lights on 26,666 6-foot tall Christmas trees.

Where does the music come from?: To make music an integral part of each scene, 444 speakers are used.

How much electricity?: It takes a lot of electricity to keep the lights burning. To deliver that electricity 3,500 extension cords are used.

How much cable is used?: To provide sound and power to all the scenes, more than 32 miles of cable are used.

How many cable ties?: 12 million cable ties hold the cables in place.

New technology: Three of the scenes are controlled with digital show controls, just like those used in Broadway productions.

Lights? There are lights: If you connected all of the light strings used in Fantasy In Lights, they would stretch 731 miles. That means you could outline the state of South Carolina with them or stretch them from Callaway Gardens to Baltimore, Md.

Who sets it up?: It takes 3,900 man-hours to install Fantasy in Lights, 1,780 man-hours to maintain it while the show is open, and 1,020 man-hours to disassemble it.

How long does it take to install? It takes six weeks to install the entire show. Each scene takes three to four days to install.

The newest scene, “Enchanted Rainbow Forest,” has 410 controlled images. This has almost three times the number of images used in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

What about the frames?: 99 percent of the frames used in Fantasy in Lights are custom designed and built just for Callaway.

Turn it on: To turn on the show, more than 1,000 switches have to be flipped every night. It takes two workers at least 45 minutes to turn on all of them. Then, it takes another 45 minutes to turn all 1,000 switches off at the end of the night.

Clean up: Each scene receives a major overhaul every three to four years. This process includes rewiring and restringing with new lights.

Where is it stored?: In January, Fantasy in Lights is stored in a 6,500-square-foot warehouse where it remains until the elves visit us again in the fall to begin another year of the show.

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