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VOL. 129 | NO. 230 | Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Starry Nights Unveils New ‘Memphis in Lights’ Display

By Andy Meek

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Fans of Orion Starry Nights, the annual holiday light show at Shelby Farms Park, have been treated to small additions and surprises with recent versions of the event, all intended to delight them, to keep them coming back and to stick around.

There’s another such addition this year. Patrons who visit Starry Nights on its run until Dec. 28 will see a series of Memphis-themed exhibits sprinkled throughout the usual assortment of holiday wonder and twinkling, illuminated delights.

Starry Nights this year features a series of Memphis-themed displays sprinkled throughout the holiday light show in Shelby Farms Park.


Organizers had an idea this time around, when considering how many people – some 130,000 – rode through the show last year. With all those cars, and all those eyes, why not focus them on a little bit of Memphis, too?

Natalie Wilson, events coordinator for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, said there’s always a challenge to keep Starry Nights fresh each year. Organizers also have kept the price basically the same since the first year the event was held, in 1989.

“Starry Nights is a tradition that lots of people look forward to every year, and we’ve realized, looking at the demographics of people that come to the show, that we’re seeing people come from all over, both regionally and nationally,” Wilson said. “One of the things we always want to do is showcase the park and the city, so I created what we’re calling ‘Memphis in Lights,’ featuring 14 Memphis places.”

Sprinkled throughout Starry Nights this year, visitors will see logos of Memphis institutions and symbols, things like Overton Park, Sun Studio, Graceland, the Memphis Zoo and the Memphis Grizzlies. Wilson said the hope is there’s a scavenger hunt kind of fun associated with the new exhibits, as visitors ride through and find the logo for yet another Memphis-themed surprise amid the holiday displays.

The new additions join other elements such as Mistletoe Village and horse-drawn carriage rides, intended to give visitors a memorable experience with options of different things to do.

The Mistletoe Village offers a grab bag of experiences beyond the lights. In it, kids and adults can be seen riding camels. S’mores are roasted around a crackling campfire. Underneath a tent, kids step over each other to feed animals that are in turn stepping over each other to be fed.

Local artisans on hand make for convenient holiday shopping, and visitors also can grab a cup of hot chocolate while visiting Santa.

Other Starry Nights elements include theme nights, which offer participating guests a way to earn ticket discounts. This time around, for example, Dec. 4 is holiday sweater night. On Dec. 10, all scouts in uniform get $5 off per car, and guests are encouraged to decorate their cars Dec. 11.

“We’re open seven days a week,” Wilson said. “The never-ending story, I call it. It’s also powered by volunteers. It’s an amazing testament to the volunteer spirit that this show is possible.”

It’s also a kind of Christmas present to Memphis, one for which the affection can be seen on any given night when a long line cars is visible inching its way through the park, the brake lights illuminating the procession and adding to the holiday lights around it.

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