As families and friends make their way through the Idaho Botanical Garden this holiday season, over 500,000 bulbs in shades of white, red and green will greet them in a Christmas-themed winter wonderland of lights.

"I think this is a really fun thing that we can offer for our community,” said Chris Becker, Idaho Botanical Garden communications director. “It’s a place to gather and connect with each other.”

Guests are invited to visit the 25th annual Winter Garden aGrow event in Boise, Idaho from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31. The festive light display will be open from 6-9:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday.

Becker said it takes a village—women from the East Boise Community Reentry Center (EBCRC) to be exact—to hang more than 4,000 strands of lights throughout 10 acres of land. The process starts in September every year, he said.

The Idaho Department of Correction operates a work program where women from the center can go out in the community to help nonprofit organizations, Becker said.

“They’re out there, basically five days a week, hanging lights and making it look just incredible,” he said. “[The botanical garden] wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”

The gardens also partner with other nonprofits to supply tickets for those who might not be able to afford them, Becker said. 

“We just want to make sure everyone can celebrate the holidays this year, not just people who can afford the ticket prices,” he said.

Attendees are encouraged to stop by the new holiday selfie station, say hello to the Santa and Mrs. Claus display, and chomp on snacks and warm drinks from local vendors. Burn barrels and holiday music will keep visitors warm and cheerful throughout the evening, he said. 

The Winter Garden aGlow event is the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year, Becker said. The fundraiser typically brings in about a quarter of the budget, he said, which funds educational classes and keeps the garden green.

As an adaption to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers directed guests to walk through the garden in a one-way direction last year. The same system will be implemented again this season, he said.

“We were so lucky to be able to hold this event last year,” he said. “We worked with Central District Health to make sure we were doing everything safely.”

Event organizers also shifted to a timed ticketing approach, a practice they kept for this year as well. Tickets are limited to one-hour timed blocks, Becker said. Dates and times are nontransferable.

“If you have a specific day you want to come, make sure you get your tickets early because they're all paid for in advance and might be sold out. We're limiting tickets for time slots to make sure that everyone feels safe and spread out,” Becker said.

To learn more about the Winter Garden aGlow event, visit idahobotanicalgarden.org/events/wintergardenaglow/.

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