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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens prepares for 2021 'Gardens Aglow'

This year's display includes 650,000 LED lights and will be a driving experience.

BOOTHBAY, Maine — For the seventh year, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will light up the Boothbay sky with its dazzling light display known as Gardens Aglow. 

"For many, many families, it has become this kind of magical holiday tradition," Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens President and CEO Gretchen Ostherr said.

Like in 2020, Gardens Aglow will be a 'driving experience' as guests will stay in their vehicles, following a roughly one-mile route through the display featuring more than 650,000 lights.

Organizers said after a successful pivot last year due to COVID, they're sticking with a driving experience as it helps make the event more accessible, warmer on cold December nights, and safer.

"It will be a whole new experience this year, longer and more immersive,” Ostherr said. “We’ve redesigned the route, bringing the show closer to viewers in their vehicles and adding a host of new illuminated sculptures and scenes. We hope that people will support a driving version of this event for one more year and make an evening of it with their friends and families."

This year's display was designed by horticulturist Brent McHale. McHale said he started the design over the summer, and he and his team have been hanging lights since early September. 

This year's light display will follow a theme of Maine's woods and waterways. In total, there is about 60 miles worth of lights used.

"This year I tried to do four different themed areas. Kind of the Maine woods, and have lots of animals that you'd find in the Maine woods. Then kind of an underwater world theme section, really heavy on the blues and aqua, and then we kind of have a wildflower meadow are with lots of butterflies and lots of creatures and critters. And over 250 flowers that we constructed, as well as a wetland area that highlights all of our wetland animals that we have, and lots of fungi and mushroom," McHale said. 

According to Ostherr, since the lights used are LED and are energy-efficient and long-lasting, it will result in energy costs of roughly $120 for the entire six-week event. 

This year's event runs Nov. 20 through Jan. 1 on Thursdays through Sundays, plus the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before Christmas Eve.

It will also be open every night from Christmas Day through Jan. 1, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. 

Attendees need to purchase tickets in advance. They can do that by visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens website.

"You can't help but feel joy and awe as you drive through this show. It's truly spectacular," Ostherr said. 

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