Lighting up the holidays

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Magic is in the pipeline. Two local cultural organizations have partnered to provide a luminous experience for the south metro region beginning Nov. 21.

Hudson Holiday, a 15-acre lighting display, created and installed by the Museum of Outdoor Arts, will dazzle visitors to Hudson Gardens and Event Center in Littleton for six weeks, through Jan. 3.

Cyclists and walkers on the Mary Carter Greenway in Hudson Gardens may have already noted construction of a barn at the west edge.

No, farm animals are not contemplated, but a flock of electric sheep will graze near the barn, assorted lighted bunnies will scamper around the wetlands, and a gathering of 26 white life-sized critters ranging from elephant to mouse will be up-lighted in the Oval Garden and in residence in the barn in off-season.

Also among the hundreds of thousands of dollars of festive investments to be installed and later stored: a huge collection of lighted, multi-colored shapes; miles of wire; old-fashioned hand-painted signs; and Santa and reindeer from a 1950s Popular Mechanics pattern.

The Hudson residence will get a false holiday front, and be inhabited by eccentric Martha and Fred Kaplinski, who have recorded a short show as they light their own display. There are permanent icicles for the island gazebo; an angel bench (wings move for photo opportunities); paisley and other patterned teepees; a new jeweled train and tiny decorations for the railroad garden’s surrounding mini landscape. Wagons will display Emry Weldig’s inventions, which were exhibited in an MOA display at Fillmore Plaza, Cherry Creek last year. And a whole lot of high-tech electronic equipment will make it all run.

The concept of gala holiday lights has been on MOA’s agenda for several years and a smaller display was mounted at Samson Park next to Fiddler’s Green, several years ago. So the inventory has been growing. But “it was too small,” Lonnie Hanzon, Wizard-in-Residence and creative director of the Museum of Outdoor Arts, says of the park.

He is certain this will be the right location. “This show belongs to the south metro area and its one and a half million people,” he said.

MOA President Cynthia Madden Leitner talked about the museum’s philosophy and Hudson Holiday.

“Art needs to be a part of everyday life — not just to make you feel good for a moment, but to give you a visual memory of who we are as people,” she said “Our hope is to inspire the viewer through the beauty of light.”

And for Hudson Gardens, it’s a win-win prospect.

“If we are able draw 20 percent of [“Zoolights ],” Hudson Gardens director Rich Meredith says it will be a success.

“And I imagine in the first year, we’ll learn a lot,” he said. “We’ll modify what’s needed and grow each and every year to a nationally recognized holiday light show.”

As a point of reference, “Zoolights” at the Denver Zoo attracts 120,000 to its annual lighting show.

Discussions and cooperation have been in the works between the two organizations for some time. MOA has placed large sculptures at Hudson Gardens in past years to give its collection added exposure to a different audience.

It seems like a match made in heaven, with each non-profit strengthening the other and sharing a large prospective audience of all ages.

“The goal is an annual event,“ said Hanzon, speaking in a studio at the MOA, packed with existing displays, such as the “Castle on the Hill” that were being fine tuned and new displays were being created.

Entrance to Hudson Holiday will be through the Welcome Garden and canopy, south of the usual gift shop entrance and maps will be available to plan short or longer routes through the north side of the Gardens. Horse-drawn wagons, boarded in the lower Demonstration Gardens area, will carry passengers in a longer loop past Frost Island, the conifer display and brightly patterned teepees.

Hanzon spoke of Diogen Lighting, an international firm located in Centennial, which manufactures and sells commercial and holiday lighting. For the past 12 to 14 years, he has designed holiday lights for his various shows that the company helps develop— and later market. A number of this year’s new Hanzon-designed shapes will light Hudson Holiday and be placed on the market next year.

Much of the display will utilize Diogen’s low-watt LED lighting, which incidentally, is being used on Littleton’s Street of Lights also.

The above items and more — Hanzon speaks of buying materials that filled four semis from an East Coast company that was moving — will require 30 days of installation time, which started Oct. 15. A certificate of occupancy was received by Meredith, meaning the barn is ready for use, and the fanciful inventory will be moved in so work can begin.

Hazon’s extensive experience includes Parade of Lights in Denver, HGTV’s holiday special, installation of the largest holiday display in Hong Kong history, Neiman Marcus’ annual Dallas holiday window displays and many more projects.

He recalls growing up in the mountains, near Pine, and making an annual family excursion to Denver to see the beautifully decorated windows that once turned downtown Denver into a magic place. That magic was fused into his persona permanently, making him eminently qualified to design a special event for today’s families.

Colorado Community Newspapers is a media sponsor for Hudson Holiday.

For information, visit www.hudsonholiday.com or the Hudson Holiday Hotline, 303-353-1715.

Hudson Gardens and Events Center is located at 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. The Museum of Outdoor Arts is located at 1000 Englewood Parkway, Englewood.

If you go

Hudson Gardens and Event Center is at 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. Hours for Hudson Holiday: 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 21-22, 27-29; Dec. 4-6, 11-13, 18-23, 26-31; and Jan. 1-3. (Last ticket sold at 8:30 p.m.) Tickets: $8 adults; $7 Seniors; $6 Kids 4 to 12; free 3 and under. www.HudsonHoliday.com, 303-797-8565 x 321. The Hudson Holiday Hotline is 303-353-1715. Ample free parking is available.

“If we continue to raise generations of children who don’t believe in magic, we’re in real trouble!”

— Lonnie Hanzon, Wizard-in-Residence and creative director, Museum of Outdoor Arts.