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VOL. 130 | NO. 244 | Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Starry Nights Making the Season Bright

By Andy Meek

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Ornament-covered trees strung with twinkling lights are among the enduring symbols of the holidays for many people. And so it is with Shelby Farms Park, which through Dec. 27 is playing host to visitors coming to marvel at an abundant display of lights illuminating scores of trees as part of its annual Orion Starry Nights holiday display.

Some 140,000 people are expected to make the procession through the Orion Starry Nights set of light displays and holiday-themed arrangements this year at Shelby Farms Park.

(Justin Fox Burks)

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy events and programs manager Natalie Wilson said about 140,000 people are expected to make the procession through the park’s set of light displays and holiday-themed arrangements this year. The festivities also include promotions like a pup party at Mistletoe Village Dec. 17 and the Starry 4K set for Dec. 28.

Also new this year: a few dozen displays.

“Starry Nights has always been a show where we could create our displays using a partnership with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, and the students would build our displays,” said Wilson about Starry Nights, the conservancy’s largest annual fundraiser.

This year, though, the park has teamed up with Pompano Beach, Florida-based Brandano Displays Inc. to set up the show, which Wilson said includes about 2 million lights.

Most of the 56 displays this year are new. And attendees should take note of returning favorites and existing displays, some of which have been changed up with new animations.

“These new displays just create a new ambience,” Wilson said. “There are new lights for families to enjoy, new ways of using the landscape with these displays, along with the displays and holiday themes people look forward to.”

Meanwhile, the Starry 4K will include new lasers, snow machines and a variety of other dazzling effects as attendees run through the lights. Pre-registered runners will also get a long-sleeved T-shirt that glows in the dark.

Elsewhere at Starry Nights, visitors have other things to experience like the Mistletoe Village and horse-drawn carriage rides that are meant to complement the main display of lights with other holiday-themed draws.

Children can roast S’mores, get their picture taken with Santa, enjoy hot chocolate and even take a camel ride. Carolers also cap the experience with yet another touch of the holidays.

Promotions have included a holiday sweater night earlier this month with a discount per car for wearing a holiday-themed sweater. There’s also been a “decorate your car” night with a similar discount for cars bearing decorative additions reflecting the season.

Starry Nights dates back to 1989, the first year the event was held. After being on hiatus for years, the Shelby Farms Park Conversancy brought it back in 2009 and took over in producing the show.

In the years since then, it’s worked hard, Wilson says, to create something fresh and memorable each year.

“It’s really a Mid-South tradition,” said Wilson, who adds that this year’s edition is benefiting from an atypically warm winter that’s encouraging visitors to get outside and come to the park. “We really see this as our holiday gift to Memphis.”

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