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Callaway Gardens dazzles visitors with millions of lightscomment (0)

November 9, 2006

By Linda Holloway

The aromas of hot, mulled apple cider, pine and cinnamon are hints that Christmas is just around the corner.
The store shelves are filled with toys that start children dreaming, and the joyous sounds of Christmas music peal through the airwaves. At church, the choirs are preparing for cantatas and preschool children are practicing for their first Christmas play.

Many favorite Christmas memories are centered around trips to visit relatives. In addition to these traditions, why not establish a new one by traveling to Pine Mountain, Ga., to witness the night sky ablaze with color? Put away the portable video games and DVDs and engage the entire family in discussing “my favorite childhood memory.” Before you know it, you will have arrived at Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy in Lights.

Beginning Nov. 17 and ending Dec. 31, Fantasy in Lights will bedazzle the night sky with more than 8 million lights. “Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy in Lights is truly one of the best holiday light shows anywhere,” said Rachel Crumbley, corporate relations manager for Callaway. “Fantasy in Lights has repeatedly been voted one of the top 20 events in the Southeast and last year, was voted one of the top three light shows in the nation by the ... Web site America’s Best and Top Ten.”

You can choose to drive your own vehicle or ride in one of the open-air Jolly Trolleys through a five-mile winter wonderland. The vast landscape glistens with more than a dozen larger-than-life displays.

Each scene has its own sound system tailored to the theme. On the Jolly Trolleys, some guests even sing along with the holiday melodies.

The fun begins along Christmas Tree Lane, where trees of lights show the way.

Then two majestic toy soldiers stand guard as you enter the March of the Toy Soldiers scene. Here, you will find a regiment of toy soldiers along with every child’s favorite toys, including a rocking horse, airplane, teddy bear and more.

Crumbley said most adults enjoy Snowflake Valley the best but Santa’s Workshop and FIL (pronounced Phil) the Frog are the favorites with children. FIL — the mascot for Fantasy in Lights — is equipped with time-lapsed bulbs, creating the illusion that FIL is jumping from lily pad to lily pad.

As the Jolly Trolley drivers stop in front of FIL, everyone shouts, “Jump, FIL, jump.” It is as if the lovable mascot hears his fans and plops into the water.

Throughout the drive, creativity abounds, making each scene unique in this fantasyland of lights. “The artist and designers who created Fantasy in Lights are some of the same who created Disney’s Electric Light Parade,” Crumbley said.

She noted that Callaway’s staff uses miniature Christmas lights to fill in details in the scenes, creating glowing pictures filled with life instead of objects simply outlined by wire frame and lights.

Once you have ended your car or trolley ride, walk to Robin Lake Beach for two additional scenes. The Night Before Christmas scene is a light and sound show complete with Jolly Old St. Nick.

The Nativity scene is the perfect way to end your experience. The 10-minute show of orchestrated lights and moving narration with music brings the Christmas story to life. Visitors can sit on the beach and watch figures of Mary, Joseph and Jesus appear and reappear as the narrator tells the story. “Toward the end of the show, the entire scene majestically lights up. It is quite moving and memorable,” Crumbley said.

In addition to the lights, Callaway offers Christmas Village, a festive indoor marketplace where children can visit an array of stations and paint their own Christmas ornaments, decorate cookies or make artwork in a bottle with colored sand.

Of course, Santa will make an appearance as well.

You can spend the night at Callaway or lodge just down the road in Pine Mountain. Wake up and enjoy Callaway’s numerous daytime activities.

You can pedal around the paved 10-mile Discovery Bicycle Trail or enjoy a walk along natural woodland trails. The John A. Sibley Horticultural Center houses a colorful explosion of poinsettias.

Another favorite stop is the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, where 1,000 tropical butterflies representing more than 50 different species flutter freely in the glass-encased conservatory.

A variety of raptors also makes an appearance at the Birds of Prey show at the Discovery Amphitheater near the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center. Watch as the birds soar overhead. Before you leave, stop by the Gothic-style Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel.

For more information, call 1-800-225-5292 or visit www.callawaygardens.com.

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