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Employee Spotlight: Festival of Lights Setup Crew


Pictured above left to right: Larry Harwood, Conner White, Colton Johnson (kneeling), Brandon Altemose, Stephen Isaacs, William Lucas, Mac Stanley, Nathan Fletcher, Josh Baker, Mark Briggs (in the background), JR Bruce, Jimmy Netherton


Watch a short video of the setup crew below.

“Seeing the kids come out here… it’s awesome,” beams Larry Harwood with an enthusiastic smile. Having helped set up Lake Julian’s Festival of Lights since 2000, the Grounds Technician has seen the annual tradition evolve into the spectacle it is today. “It gives you such a good feeling for the hard work you’ve done,” says Larry, adding his favorite piece is the blue dinosaur.

While families from across the region enjoy this holiday tradition, what they don’t see is the planning and hard work it takes to set up the parkwide light display. Park Ranger Conner White says the assembly and placement of the displays is a collaborative effort. “The process takes about a month. Every year we have General Services for about two weeks [to help with the big displays]. Then Parks & Recreation staff fill in the light strands,” explains Connor, noting that every year they add more lights and displays. “The first time we see it at night, we’re looking at it from a viewpoint of is it clear? Ultimately, it’s really nice to see families come through year after year and tell us we like what we added this year… It’s a labor of love.”

The combined crew of General Services and Parks & Recreation staff is about 15 people. And if you’ve ever noticed they don’t do the exact same set up every year, you’re absolutely correct. Park Ranger Brandon Altemose exclaims that the creative freedom they have year-to-year is one of his favorite parts about setting up the Festival of Lights. “My favorite part is having some creative control over where we put pieces, making thematic areas, and cool patterns with string lights,” says Brandon, noting his favorite piece is the jumping fish, with the dinosaur coming in a close second. “This is my sixth year… you have regulars come back and remark about how they can’t wait to see what we did different this year. And when you have input on a new piece, and people are excited about it… that’s cool!”

Buncombe County would like to extend a huge thank you to the General Services and Parks & Recreation staff that put some much attention to detail and hard work into setting up the Festival of Lights. We know it’s an annual tradition so many families look forward to, and we appreciate how much time and care goes into making it such a special event.

Thanks to the following staff for their hard work:

General Services:

  • Larry Harwood
  • Mark Briggs
  • JR Bruce
  • William Lucas
  • Stephen Isaacs
  • Josh Baker
  • Nathan Fletcher
  • Jimmy Netherton
  • Bobby Walker
  • Aaron Hannah
  • Mike Brown
  • Mark Blankenship
  • Mike Stewart

Parks & Recreation

  • Colton Johnson
  • Conner White
  • Brandon Altemose
  • Nick Orlando
  • Zach Hickok
  • Kristen Howard
  • Gene Snyder
  • Matt Dixon
  • Mac Stanley 

Festival of Lights dates, times, and ticket information

The Festival of Lights will be open to the public Dec. 2-23. Dec. 2-3 will be public walkthroughs with Dec. 4-23 operating as a drive through. All nights will run 6-9 p.m. Tickets for personal vehicles are $10, Sprinter vans, Trailblazers, and conversion vans are $25, and buses and motorcoaches will be $50. Walk-thru tickets can be bought here, while drive-thru tickets can be purchased here. All tickets can also be bought at the gate.

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Updated Nov 17, 2022 03:18 PM
Published Nov 15, 2022 10:46 AM


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