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VOL. 126 | NO. 235 | Friday, December 2, 2011

Shining Brightly

Starry Nights returns with more events, features

By Aisling Maki

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The staff at Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is hoping Memphians will choose to make multiple visits this holiday season to First Tennessee Starry Nights, the park’s annual light show featuring enormous holiday displays illuminated with more than a million environmentally friendly LED lights.

Visitors drive through Starry Nights at Shelby Farms Park, which features 1.5 million LED lights. The exhibit runs through Dec. 30 and is closed every Monday to cars for Run, Walk, Bike nights.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Starry Nights, which runs through Dec. 30, has added features and events to attract locals looking for holiday cheer – most notably Mistletoe Village, sponsored by Boyle Investment Co.

The park’s Woodland Discovery Playground has been transformed into a magical Christmas village where children and families can have portraits made with Santa Claus; roast s’mores over fire pits; sip hot cocoa at the Holiday Café; shop for collectibles; and enjoy live performances by carolers, choirs and bands.

On Saturdays and Sundays, children are invited to decorate gingerbread people at Harrah’s Gingerbread Corner in the Mistletoe Market. And on Sunday, Dec. 4, and Dec. 11, Roger Pelcher, the four-time Guinness Book of World Records titleholder for largest gingerbread creations, will host a kids-only gingerbread-decorating workshop.

In addition to providing family entertainment, Mistletoe Village showcases the park’s innovative playground, which opened in April and is currently in the running to become the world’s first certified Sustainable Sites Initiative project.

“We wanted to have more than a drive-thru show,” said Jen Andrews, director of communications for Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the nonprofit organization that manages and operates Shelby Farms Park and Shelby Farms Greenline. “We wanted to create an experience. We want people to get out of their cars, roast marshmallows, listen to live music, shop for holiday gifts, eat a little bit and make a whole night of it. That was the thinking behind the Mistletoe Village. We also wanted to highlight the new Woodland Discovery Playground – one of our favorite amenities in the park – which is also an exhibit in the show.”

Monday evenings are designated Run, Walk, Bike Nights, reserved for non-vehicular use, and the park this year has lowered admission prices for visitors on those nights.

Shelby Farms this year is also inviting visitors to view Starry Nights in a whole new light with hayrides and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Woodlands Discovery Park at Shelby Farms Park has been turned into Mistletoe Village as part of Starry Nights, where fire pits provide for impromptu s'mores.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

“When we introduced the run, walk, ride nights, we went through it as a staff, and we noticed that it’s a totally different show when you’re walking or riding your bike,” Andrews said. “This is an addition that’s in the same line of thinking. It’s a whole new way to see the show, and it’s very different than being in your car.”

As always, drivers can listen to holiday tunes from local musicians – organized by Memphis Music Foundation – on a special radio station.

The park is also offering theme nights – including Tacky Tie & Sweater Night, Decorate Your Car Night, and Walkin’ and Woofin’ Night for dog owners – that offer visitors a chance to have some holiday fun while earning discounts on admission prices.

Discount nights are also scheduled for military and first responders, scouts, seniors, bikers and out-of-towners. A list of theme nights is at www.starrynightsmemphis.com.

“We wanted to create some ways for people to get some discounts so that the show could be accessible to as many people as possible, so we added some fun theme nights into the show,” Andrews said. “It’s a way for us to offer people a cheaper ticket into the show and for people to have a little bit of interactive fun.”

Starry Nights was created by Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association and ran each holiday season from 1994 to 1999, becoming a beloved holiday tradition for many Mid-South families.

In 2009, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy brought the show back with a whole new spin. Along with holiday pieces, the conservancy introduced exhibits with environmental and nature themes and implemented the use of environmentally friendly LED lights in the displays.

Proceeds from Starry Nights ticket sales benefit the conservancy.

“Every time you come, you’re not just having a great time and seeing the lights and getting into the holiday spirit, but you’re supporting the park that you love, the greenline that you love and the playground that you love because this is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year,” Andrews said.

For ticket prices and more information, visit www.starrynightsmemphis.com.

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