Fantasy in Lights
8 million lights. 15 dazzling scenes. 1 magical night. Fantasy In Lights is not only the South’s most spectacular holiday light and sound show, it is one of the world’s “Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights,” as named by National Geographic Traveler.
Now in its 21st year, Fantasy In Lights continues to be the most incredible holiday light and sound show in the South. Here are a few fun facts from behind the scenes:
1. Fantasy In Lights opened in 1992 with five scenes. Since then, it has grown to include more than a dozen lighted scenes with music and many with animation.
2. The original scenes were designed by professionals who had formerly worked with Disney’s Imagineering department.
3. The total show includes some 8 million lights. This is equivalent to the number of lights on 26,666 standard 6-foot tall Christmas Trees.
4. It takes a lot of electricity to keep the lights burning and a lot extension cords to deliver it – some 3,500 of them.
5. More than 32 miles of cable is required to power the sound and lights.
6. About 12 million cable ties hold all the cables in place.
7. Three of the scenes are controlled with digital show controls, just like those used in Broadway productions.
8. If you connected all of the light strings used in Fantasy In Lights, they would stretch more than 725 miles. That’s enough to outline the state of South Carolina or stretch end to end from Pine Mountain to Baltimore, Md.
9. It takes approximately 3,900 man-hours to install Fantasy In Lights, 1,780 man-hours to maintain it while the show is open, and 1,020 man-hours to disassemble it.
10. It takes six weeks to install the entire show, with each scene requiring three to four days for installation.
11. The newest scene, Enchanted Rainbow Forest, has 410 controlled images. This has almost three times the number of images used in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
12. Ninety-nine percent of the frames used in Fantasy In Lights are custom designed and built just for Callaway.
13. To turn on the show, more than 1,000 switches have to be flipped every night. It takes two workers at least 45 minutes to turn them on and another 45 minutes to turn them off at the end of the night
14. Each scene receives a major overhaul every three to four years. This process includes rewiring and restringing with new lights.
15. Each January, Fantasy In Lights is stored in a 6,500-square-foot warehouse, where it remains until the elves visit us again in the Fall to begin another year of the show!
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FANTASY IN LIGHTS HISTORY
The seed was planted, appropriately enough, by Virginia Hand Callaway. Mrs. Callaway, who was so instrumental in making Callaway Gardens one of the world’s great botanical paradises, was the first to dream of a Christmas lights show at the Pine Mountain, Ga., retreat that she co-founded with her husband, Cason Callaway.
Virginia Callaway often thought back to her childhood and the Christmas light displays she enjoyed on lawns in her hometown of Pelham, Ga. Her vision gradually took shape over the years, and in 1992 Callaway Gardens flipped the switch on Fantasy In Lights, bringing to life the first major holiday light show in Georgia.
Fantasy In Lights opened with five displays that touched hearts and evoked fond memories of holidays past. March of the Toy Soldiers, Magical Christmas Garden, Snowflake Valley, Twin Trees and FIL the Frog all were custom-made for Callaway by the late Ken Dresser and Dennis Despie. Dresser (1938-1995) was considered one of the world’s best graphic artists in the field of large-scale event productions, including float designs for Disneyland’s renowned Main Street Electric Parade. He joined forces with Despie, who had been Disney’s vice-president of entertainment before forming his own company, Select Productions.
Fantasy In Lights grew quickly, adding new scenes each year and expanding the Christmas Village, an indoor shopping and hospitality area. Fantasy In Lights today comprises 15 displays and eight million lights – enough to illuminate more than 26,000 six-foot tall Christmas trees! Yet for all of its larger-than-life drama, Fantasy In Lights is an intimate experience – one that has created Christmas traditions and priceless memories for countless families. We hope you will join us as we extend those beloved traditions again in 2012.