Torrential rains the day before Glow was set to open created an unexpected adventure for event organizers and threatened to potentially derail the popular Langley Christmas event.
Half the show lights didn’t work on opening day morning, explained Daryl Driegen, president of operations for Glow Gardens. That, he admitted, was a bit concerning.
Glow Gardens, more commonly just called Glow, is a large Christmas light display first developed in 2017 by operators of Darvonda Nurseries inside their Milner greenhouses. This year, instead of being hosted indoors (like the first three years) or as a drive-thru only (like the past two years), Glow Langley opened Thursday back at the Darvonda site, but as an outdoor walk-through event.
Being outside definitely presenting an array of new challenges for organizers, Driegen admitted, weather included.
“We’re from B.C., we’re used to the rain,” he added. But they weren’t quite prepared for weather to knock out so many lights less than 24 hours before launch.
“We actually hadn’t had any rain in multiple weeks, so we didn’t know what was going to be a problem until [then], when it rained so hard. So in a way, we’re happy it did, because now we’re not worried when guest walk in, that they’re going to see lights out here and there. We’ve got it under control and we’re really excited about what we can offer,” Driegen said.
“That was a lot of rain. But that’s a thing about being outside, you just have to roll with it and figure it out… It was actually right down to the wire [on opening day]. We finished at 10 minutes before we let guests in. We were still buttoning it up. But that’s how the events business works… That’s the fun of this adventure,” Driegen said.
It’s been three years since Glow has been able to be hosted as an in-person event on the Darvonda property in Langley, ” and we’re really excited to be back,” he said.
“The last two years, because of COVID, we’ve been doing a drive thru. And before that, in 2019, we didn’t do it in Langley. We did it in Abbotsford. So we’re really excited to finally be allowed to bring it back to Langley, and run it here as the event we’ve been sort of dreaming of,” Driegen added.
To do so, they required special-use permits to be able to run the event on the 216th Street site. One of the restrictions stipulates that it be held outside and not within the greenhouses – as in past. So, most of the light displays are outdoors, with vendors, children’s activities, and entertainment offered inside large warmed tents set up around the three-acre show site.
The permit was granted at the end of August, and work began in late September starting to set up for this year’s Glow.
“We started off slow, and in the last month we’ve been working full steam ahead to make sure the show is ready,” Driegen said, noting a core team of 10 – plus numerous contractors – were involved in prep.
“We’re really excited to have put the event together and bring it back in the way everybody was used to in 2017 and 2018,” Driegen said.
“Because we are now outside, it was quite an involved process to figure out how to make this space customer ready, so it’s a safe place to walk around and adventure,” he elaborated, noting asphalt and compact gravel pathways spread for 1,300 linear feet.
“It’s the biggest footprint we’ve ever put on,” Driegen added. “We’re really excited to see people and how they receive it.”
There are a lot of new light exhibits throughout the grounds, along with some of the favourites of past including the music tunnel, cascading lights, a forest of icicles, an elf castle, and the free Glow-comotive train.
“What we have this year, is that we themed it The Jolly Jumble. What’s happened is that some of Santa’s elves were working on his Christmas tree and knocked it over, and as you can see, there are ornaments spread everywhere and lots of adventures to go see with the elves throughout this entire show,” he explained.
“We have animated trees, animated hanging lights, a beautiful tunnel that some of you have seen before, but it’s going to be an adventure, going all the way until year end.”
Visitors can expect, if they walk the entire show, to spend a minimum of 35 minutes walking through the light displays – and Driegen emphasized “minimum.”
“If you stop for a lot of pictures, it’s going to be well over an hour because there’s a lot to see.”
Honestly, he recommended setting aside two hours to take it all in.
Put on the spot opening night, Driegen was asked what his favourite piece in the show is? After a lengthy pause and obvious contemplation, he said a series of four animated trees in the back of the show.
“We’ve animated them to make swirls, and instead of just a stagnant piece, it makes an adventure for the eyes… we’re really working hard to add more interaction for people, so it’s not just about taking photos, it’s also about the children being able to touch and feel and get involved.”
Past shows on the site have attracted upwards of 120,000 during the Christmas season. Driegen hopes to see similar numbers or greater this year.
“It’s been an adventure, but we’re really happy to have events back to the way they were, and opportunities for families to get together in the way we used to. We’re just excited we can be part of everybody’s Christmas again,” he concluded.
Driegen wasn’t the only one enthused about the return of Glow.
Langley’s Betty Stumph works at Glow, with her husband Brent.
While she primarily works as a greeter and information provider, Brent serves as a train conductor and zone supervisor.
They’re in for about 15 to 20 shifts this year, Betty threatening to pick up a few more than her hubby because she loves Christmas and the opportunity to socialize.
They’ve worked at Glow since the beginning, and she loves that the Christmas festival is only five-minutes down the street from their Murrayville home.
The couple worked the initial shows in the greenhouse and the one at Tradex, but they bowed out when it came to the drive-thru, which Betty said was just too cold for either of them.
The 2022 Glow is a magical experience, she said.
“It’s almost as good as the original,” Betty shared opening night – having only viewed the new show during a training session. She was anxious to take time on her breaks to explore the grounds and displays more closely.
“I love the trains. I love it all… this is all brand new for us,” she said, glad to be back. “It’s such a wonderful way to start Christmas.”
While Langley remains home base, Glow has since expanded across the country with seven other locations open this year in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Toronto, Halifax, and Hartford, Conn.
The local show continues nightly through until Dec. 31, at which time Driegen said Glow organizers hope to wrap it the season with a family-oriented New Year’s Eve party.
Tickets range from $14.99 for seniors and children ages four to 12, and $19.99 for ages 13 and older. Info: www.glowgardens.com.
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