RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is wrapping up for the season after a show impacted by unprecedented changes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The annual tradition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has been open nightly since Nov. 23, 2020, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
“Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights this year was a lot different than in years past, but we were really just so humbled and grateful that the community came out and supported us, and we were so glad that we could have the show,” Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Public Relations and Marketing Director Beth Monroe said. “It offered just a small sense of normalcy in a really crazy time.”
The event has been a holiday favorite, know for its thousands of lights, decorations, model trains, and treats, all of which require volunteer support.
“The volunteers here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, they made this possible,” Monroe said. “They are the ones that really do so much with the light show throughout the year. It’s a year-round effort.”
The show opened with an extended schedule and several precautions in place due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
“We had a lot of safety protocols in place, as you might imagine. We had very limited numbers and lots of one-way in and out kinds of guidelines,” Monroe said. “But we found that people really adapted and understood.”
Masks and advance-purchase tickets were required this year, including a timed arrival to allow for social distancing.
Monroe tells 8News that those who were able to attend GardenFest of Lights this season actually enjoyed the fact that there were fewer people there at any given time.
“We’re going to learn some lessons from this,” she said. “Hopefully, we won’t be as limited [next year], but [we’ll] learn some good lessons from this year, as well, going forward.”
While attendance was extremely limited due to Executive Orders, Monroe said the extended schedule enabled Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to welcome almost as many people as it has in the past.
“Not as many as last year — we had a super record-breaking year last year,” she said. “But it’s not out of line from the visitation that we’ve had in previous years.”
Though GradenFest of Lights concludes Sunday at 10 p.m., Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will remain open throughout the season.
“People who need a place to come and get outside in nature, take a walk, decompress, this place is here for the community, and we are free this week,” Monroe said.
The garden is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but daytime admission is free Jan. 13, 2021 to Jan. 17, 2021.
“I think we’re just really looking forward,” Monroe said. “We’re looking forward to spring — we’re garden people — and just can’t wait to see some of the signs that we’re already seeing. Spring is on its way.”