Daryl Driegen always wishes he had more time, so he could create just one, two, or maybe three new light features or interactive elements for Glow Langley.
But time is counting down fast to the grand opening of the 2023 light show at Darvonda Nurseries in Milner. Nov. 23 is a week away, and will be here before Driegen feels ready.
As director of operations for Glow and the family-run nursery, he is very excited to unveil the newest holiday festival for people to see, noting all but a handful of the giant decorations are new – a whopping $750,000 investment to bring a Christmas carnival to life on the grounds of their 20-acre nursery on 216th Street this holiday season.
“Guests will experience a family-friendly outdoor Christmas festival with improved heated and covered spaces, new free carnival-themed games, towering carnival-themed lights, a craft corner… along with the much-loved magical holiday landscapes, all under the thrill of more than a million lights that continue to impress guests,” he said.
His family started Glow in 2017, after witnessing some holiday light displays in the U.S. that they thought would be awesome to replicate inside their greenhouses for the masses.
Afterall, during the spring and summer months, the nursery has been producing flowering annuals, tropicals, and vegetables for more than 30 years. But in the winter months much of the space goes unused.
So, the festival was originally created with the intention of using both empty greenhouse and farming space during the winter to create a holiday experience.
At that time, there was nothing similar on that scale anywhere in Western Canada, and the Darvonda team decided to be first.
They did just that for the first two years, but a decision by the Agricultural Land Commission changed things.
That forced organizers to shift to Tradex in Abbotsford during 2019. And after one year off site, they were granted permissions to hold Glow again at their Langley site, provided the light features were outdoors.
That’s what they’ve been doing now for a few year – including two years (2020 and ’21) when they hosted drive-thru festivals due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It is now – for the second year in a row – a mix of indoor and outdoor. It’s a walk-through festival, with a 1,200-linear foot walking path guiding guests past giant light displays outside, then moving inside for a little warmth, vendors, and other activities.
This year’s carnival theme has made for some fun, interesting, and even challenging displays to create – some still in the research and development phases – even days away from the show launch, Driegen chuckled.
“We bought or built everything,” he explained.
“So, not only does it have all new lights – including some features we’re pretty proud of – we’re also making it more interactive,” Driegen said, noting there will be a few mini carnival games such as skeeball and a shooting range, plus a carousel that doesn’t move but that children can sit on, a three-ring circus maze with animated 360-degree display, and a 20-foot ferris wheel light exhibit.
Additional attractions on the “show grounds” include the Merry Makers Market, with more than 20 local vendors, a new interactive kids scavenger hunt, live holiday performances, a holiday train ride, pictures with Santa, return of an interactive play zones, and more.
“I’m really big on making it more and more interactive, because photo ops are wonderful, but the key demographic is a lot of people with children,” and he’s trying to get better at attracting teenagers and younger with more to do than just take pictures.
“We want to figure out how we can improve the show, so they want to be here for the hour and a half that people are generally here,” Driegen said.
Since its inception seven years ago, Glow Gardens has partnered with hosts in other North America communities to present similar Glow experiences. This year there are seven other shows, each of are hosted inside, Driegen noted.
This year, he’s helping oversee set up of shows in Edmonton, Calgary, and a new one in Lethbridge, as well as Halifax and a return to Saskatoon, plus an off-season show in February in Regina. There’s also a U.S. Christmas show coming together in Connecticut.
Driegen noted Langley audiences gets to see the shows first – before they’re shared with any other communities across Canada or the U.S.
“Everything starts here. Everything here is the first, so fortunately the people in Langley get all of our new ideas first, before the rest of the world,” he said, adding that last year’s Langley show drew 92,000 visitors.
This year’s festival – Driegen predicted – will be bigger.
Glow Langley runs from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30. It will not be going into the New Year this time.
For more information on event schedule, ticket sales,discounted days, and timelines, people can visit: Christmas Glow Langley (glowgardens.com). Ticket prices, Driegen said, have remained the same throughout all the years in operation.
He thinks that’s more important than ever in this year’s economic recession.
“Glow Langley wants as many guests as possible to attend and enjoy the event, without causing financial strain,” he said, noting parking is free and clear Glow umbrellas and ponchos are available for free use at the event.