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Employee Spotlight: Behind the Scenes of the Lake Julian Festival of Lights

On a crisp November morning, County staff open the bay doors to the Lake Julian storage shed. Inside sits more than 50,000 Christmas lights to be tested and hung. There’s also nearly 50 animated scenes that will need to be assembled and checked before opening night. This project is so monumental in size and spectacular when it’s complete… it would make Clark Griswold tear up.

Decorating the park is challenging and takes planning, organization, teamwork, and a love of the holiday season and community. First, a team of 12-15 General Services and Recreation staff members plan and set up the large displays. These animated scenes are heavy steel frames that come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and themes. After the major displays are set up, staff begins decorating the entrance, trees, shrubs, buildings, and boats. When all is said and done, the process takes about three weeks to complete.

This year, one staff member Garrett Fox went the extra mile and decorated the entrance booth with custom handcrafted and painted decorations. His craftsmanship and artistry did not go unnoticed by his coworkers. In fact, they were so proud of his work, they insisted that Garrett be the featured employee in this article. You can tell he put a lot of time, passion, care, and attention to detail into his design; all defining characteristics of an expert craftsman. Each design was drawn on plywood, cut with a jigsaw, primed, painted, and then installed on the front booth. Garrett’s custom artistry truly adds a welcoming touch to the entrance of the park.

This year, several new scenes have been added to the light show. There’s a gingerbread man jumping on a trampoline, a penguin throwing snowballs at another penguin, and Santa in flight with his reindeer; a display measuring more than 50 feet long and 20 feet tall, the largest in park history.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights has expanded throughout the years and is now going on its 19th year. “We have gone from a small show that was only four days a month to a show that lasts an entire month. Last year we had over 5,000 cars and overall more than 20,000 people attend,” exclaims Lake Julian Park Supervisor David Blynt. When asked if there is a crowd favorite display, David notes, “There are a lot of crowd favorites, but there is one display that folks always ask about… it’s our blue lake dinosaur, Nessie.” The story goes that 16 years ago David couldn’t decide what display to purchase for the park, so he brought the display book home and asked his kids to pick one out. Kids being kids (they were five and seven at the time), picked a blue dinosaur, much to David’s surprise. But he went with it, and a legend was born. “Kids for some reason really like the dinosaur… he’s big, colorful, and really stands out,” says David. Nessie is now 16 years old and is placed right next to the lake playground. David’s kids are now off at college, but have a tradition of visiting the light show to pay regards to their old friend Nessie every year.

Thanks to all the employees and sponsors who make the Festival of Lights possible for our community. We hope you and your family continue the tradition of visiting the Festival of Lights or start a new one by attending for the first time this year.

Festival of Lights Event Details

Lights by the Lake Foot Stroll

Nov. 30-Dec. 1

5:30-8:30 p.m.

$5 per adult. Kids 16 and under, free with a paying adult.

Festival of Lights opens to cars

Dec. 3-23

Nightly 6-9 p.m.

Vehicle entry for the Festival of Lights is $10 per passenger vehicle, $25 for large vans, and $50 for motor coaches and buses.  Advance tickets may be purchased for $8 per passenger vehicle, $20 for large vans, and $40 for motor coaches and buses.

Advance tickets can be purchased online at lakejulianfestivaloflights.simpletix.com.

Read more about the event:

Festival of Lights Returns to Lake Julian Park