Garden d’Lights started in a living room.
Nancy Kartes remembers sitting in her living room 25 years ago, carefully crafting together a light display. She was crafting a wisteria arbor with hanging grape vines.
“[My kids] remember me watching me put these lights together,” Kartes said. “It’s a very fine motor skills kind of thing.”
The display became one of many creations used in the Bellevue Botanical Garden light celebration in 1994.
This year, attendees will see grape vines hanging near the waterfall as a tribute to the first design.
It’s the 25th anniversary of Garden d’Lights, Bellevue’s beloved holiday event. The botanical garden officially turned on the lights last week and will run from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening through Dec. 31, at 12001 Main Street in Bellevue.
The idea to create a lights garden began in 1994, when the Bellevue Botanical Garden and Bellevue Botanical Garden Society staff and volunteers were brainstorming ideas to increase garden visitation in the off-season. Kartes, garden manager, said she brought the idea of creating a garden out of lights to the coordinating committee.
The society got to work right away. Once the show became a tradition, new lights were added each year. Since the garden’s original opening in 1992, the area grew and the event grew with it.
“It’s just wonderful to have a place for people to come and celebrate and be together,” Kartes said. “To create something that starts as this little sparkle of an idea and have it become reality, not just for one year or two is [amazing] and it keeps growing. It keeps getting better and becoming more and more beloved. That’s what feels right.”
The community event has quickly become loved by many. Bill Willard, an original planner and volunteer, considers the light show a reward.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything that I’ve done in the last 25 years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it from day one.”
Willard is one of the many volunteers that help put the displays together. Since the beginning he has helped to plan, build and install the light displays in the garden.
Each year, volunteers donate some 6,000 hours to put on the event. Volunteers plan for the event the entire year.
“The garden and the event is by and for the community,” Kartes said. “It’s really nice.”
Tickets are $5 per person and children 10 years and younger are free. Tickets can be purchased at www.bellevuebotanical.org. Tickets also may be purchased on-site.