One of the highlights of Christmas Town is the expansive, park-wide lighting design. With more than 1,500 live cut trees, and miles of garland, we have garnered enough Christmas lights to stretch to Pennsylvania and back. In reality, the park contains well over the advertised two million lights, and the truth is that we can really only guess the exact amount.
Last year in our inaugural year, we purchased a specific amount of Christmas lights to put up in the park, and when the event was over, the lights were carefully packed away and then re-used in the display this year. Because most of our lighting is LED, it consumes far less energy than traditional incandescent lights and also last much longer. We re-use our lights, and ordered a specific amount of spares to keep in case of an emergency or an unexpected design change. If a tree has the specified amount of lights (ours can have up to a dozen each) and it doesn’t look as bright as we’d like, we won’t hesitate to add more. Likewise, if there’s an area of the park that looks like it needs a tree, we’ll add one and increase our bulb count. No matter what the exact number of lights is, having several million of them spread out high and low across the hills and valleys of the park can be quite a daunting task.
Although most of our lighting is very energy-efficient, it doesn’t make sense for us to simply plug in the lights and leave them on 24 hours a day. To get power in the remote sections of the Rhine River ravine, on top of the turrets in the North Pole, and everywhere else in the park where you’re hard-pressed to find an outlet, we use generators to illuminate our displays, and power them on just before the event starts and off once the park is clear of guests.
It’s not the quantity of power required, but the location that makes generators a smart solution for powering so many lights. The wrapped maple tree at the compass in Italy has over 100,000 warm white lights on it alone, yet uses only as much energy as the average refrigerator. Though the number of lights on the maple is impressive, it still can’t beat “O Tannenbaum,” which uses over 620 channels to control its over 750,000 Christmas lights, stage lights and intelligent moving lights.
One of the newest additions this year is the Flight of Lights that takes you on a round-trip course over breathtaking holiday scenery. My favorite moments are the initial ascent over the blue trees and bright white stars of Scotland and the sparkle of the Peace on Earth sign through the trees. If you’ve been to the park, I’m sure you’ve noticed the illuminated sky ride gondolas. Each gondola is actually equipped with its own battery that gets charged every few days. Each battery has been tested to ensure that it will hold a charge long enough to keep the lights bright for the whole weekend. Having the low-energy-consuming LED lights help a lot.
I hope you’ve learned a little about what it takes to power such a huge expanse of Christmas lights. So the next time you’re at Christmas Town, take a moment to reflect on what it takes to power our Christmas display. Who knows, it might inspire you to create your own garden of lights.