MUN Botanical Garden lights up the holiday season

‘Well, we’ve kind of lost count. I think we have over 50,000 lights all through the garden.’

Heather Donovan, from left to right, Fayne March and Joan O’Leary visited the Merry & Bright Light Fesitval Wednesday evening. It was Donovan and March’s second time visiting and O’Leary’s first. Margaret Harvey/Kicker

Margaret Harvey

Memorial University’s Botanical Garden launched the first night of their Merry & Bright Light Festival Wednesday evening. It will be up and running almost every night until Dec 22.

The buses rotated throughout the evening, one going towards the garden and one coming back.

People murmured to themselves as the bus slowed to a stop at the MUN Botanical Garden. They continued chatting as they made their way to the chalet to check in and make their way to the garden filled with lights.

A unicorn is part of the Christmas light show at the Memorial University Botanical Gardens. Margaret Harvey/Kicker

The garden is almost unrecognizable in the dark and covered with lights of all kinds.

The group arriving on the bus separated into twos or larger and took their time throughout the path of the garden. Children were exclaiming to their parents about the abundance of lights in the path, the tiny gravel rocks crunching underneath their feet.

Kim Shipp, the garden director, was bundled up, prepped for an evening in and out of the brisk weather. Her cheeks were red from the cold.

She says this year is going to be bigger than the previous two years.

In the greenhouse filled with succulents, aloe plants, and more, a table is set up with a fundraiser for the garden.

People pay what they can, and then leave a wish or a memorial note. The volunteers will then light a tea light candle and it will burn for the entire 19 days of the festival.

Most, if not all, bags are variations of “in memory of,” and recall someone lost, someone that was close to them.

After making a donation, people can leave a memorial paper bag . Volunteers will then tend to it ensuring the candle will burn for the length of the festival.  Margaret Harvey/Kicker

“We have… well, we kind of lost count,” said Shipp. “I think we’re over 50,000 lights all through the garden.”

That doesn’t include the candle tea lights, either.

Last year the garden saw 14,312 people walk through it.

“It’s fun for people to see it in a completely different way than they’re used to,” Shipp said.

While walking the path, conversations are had between people, all commenting on the enchanting display of lights.

Three ladies, Heather Donovan, Fayne March, and Joan O’Leary, were all enjoying the garden. it was the second visit for Donovan and March.

“It’s my first time here and it’s phenomenal,” O’Leary said. “It’s beautiful.”

For Donovan, it makes winter a little bit more lovely.

“You don’t get out to do much unless you’re a skier or a snowmobiler. So, this is nice for a night out.”

Take Charge sponsored the puffins this year. They are among many other decorations set up at the Botanical Gardens for the festival.  Margaret Harvey/Kicker

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