With just two days remaining before the Garden of Lights illuminates the Montrose Botanic Gardens, volunteers and students worked together in the chilly air Wednesday putting the finishing touches on many new designs.

The third annual Lighting of the Gardens will kick off Friday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. The event is a fundraiser for the Botanic Gardens and a family-oriented outing for the community during the holiday season.

“We like to do a different theme every year for the promenade,” said Lorraine Shide, chair of the Garden of Lights committee. “The first year we did multi-colored drippy lights that I had seen in San Antonio along the River Walk. Last year we did a red and white theme with a canopy over from tree to tree.

“This year we’re doing multi-colored splashes on each tree,” she added. “They’re all a solid different color on each tree. We try to highlight the Gardens”

Shide said It’s a major effort between a lot of volunteers, who are members, and high school students. Shide also works in the Career Development Center at the high school.

“The students have been involved every year,” she said. “It’s the ‘Project: Lead the Way’ students. Last year was the first time they designed the music-activated light show. They created a barn facade because we didn’t have this, (the storage building/stage). Then, that same group of kids in the spring designed this building,” (that now stands in “Kate’s Corner”).

This year the music will include two songs from, “The Polar Express,” to coordinate with one of the big holiday shows at the Pavilion.

“We have a student who has been doing her internship in welding,” Shide said. “She’s made a small locomotive that will be here tomorrow and it will be part of the light show.”

This year there will be three teams of horses and carriages at the Gardens to offer carriage rides, including Matt Miles’ black Percherons, Y-Bar Hitch with their Suffolk Punch horses from England and Landscaper Jim Rock’s set of Dappled Gray. Since parking at the Pavilion is often full with its events, there will be parking at AltaVista school and Telluride Express will offer shuttles on the two weekends. They have a competition between them as to who decorates their wagons the best, according to Shide.

“We’re going to have another competition that we just came up with today,” she added. “We’re going to have a ‘Guessing Box,’ and we’ll have people guess how many lights are in the ‘Tunnel of Lights.’ But we’re still looking for a prize.”

Another group of students from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program this year incorporated the help of one of their fathers, who works at WeatherPort in Delta, to design the tunnel of lights.

“From the beginning of the semester, we decided that we were going to have an 80-foot tunnel of lights and we were going to program a light show,” said Jeremy Trujillo, an MHS senior who started taking the engineering classes his freshman year. “This project is kind of reserved for seniors who have taken all of the engineering classes. We teamed up with some of the engineers from WeatherPort and did some brainstorming on that. We tried several different designs until we came up with the PVC.”

The other engineering students in the project are Jacob Ryser, Skylar Tubbs, Jared Prosser, Quinn Schrick and Joseph Farnese.

Since there are no indoor structures within the Botanic Garden, organizers turned to Colorado Yurt Company for the tipis.

“We had no shelter for Santa,” Shide said. “We put Mr. and Mrs. Santa in the tipi with solar power. We have a small tipi for the kids.

“The (food trailer) ‘Pork Palace’ from Rib City will serve as the ‘Cocoa Depot,’” she added. “We give out free hot chocolate. Right now, the students are in the process of making 3,000 chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks that they’ll be giving away.”

The organizing committee also wanted to be as environmental friendly as possible, so they teamed up with DMEA and worked out a solution predicated on using all LED lighting.

“They were starting a big push for energy efficiency,” said Shide. “And, being a Garden, we also want to be kind to the earth. They said if we stick with LED lights, they would help support us and partner with us and they have.”

The Garden of Lights will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10; Friday through Sunday, Dec. 16-18; and Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 26-27. Admission prices are children 4 and under are free; children 5-18, $3; and adults, $5. Families (up to four) are $12. For more information visit www.montrosegardens.org.

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