Creating a fantasy

Posted 10/30/09

“The view will change wherever you are,” said designer Lonnie Hanzon, as he happily contemplated the acres of gardens he is transforming into …

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Creating a fantasy


“The view will change wherever you are,” said designer Lonnie Hanzon, as he happily contemplated the acres of gardens he is transforming into Hudson Holiday.

A garden of 10-foot-tall lighted flowers, backed with a row of bright “squiggles” will grow and glow near the entrance, an appropriate introduction to a fantasy scene that will surround the visitor to the new lighting display at Hudson Gardens, created in partnership with the Museum of Outdoor Arts.

Giant snowflakes are hung from trees near the entrance.

Three crew members were attaching flower petals to sturdy poles, adjusting them and fastening with plastic binders on Oct. 27.

“You need to fluff those,” said Kamla Presswalla to Corey Gilstrap, who was perched on a tall ladder, handing him another batch of thin plastic binders.

He raised and adjusted petals, fastening them tight. Vivian Smolke, who said she had previously worked with Gilstrap, a well-known puppet and design professional, was also on flower garden detail.

The three are part of a creative team of about 15 who will be working right up to the opening on Nov. 21, installing miles of lights and special scenes throughout the garden. On the north edge of the parking lot, the Castle on the Hill will lead the eye toward the oval garden, where a small forest of white, pointed, curved yucca poles had been planted in the grass, awaiting a parade of life-sized white animals. The whole area will be uplighted by 25 special effects projectors that will constantly change colors and also highlight dramatic tall grasses that remain in the garden.

Another pair of crew members focused on placing squiggles, loops and other lighting effects in the Rose Garden fountain, which will hopefully become festooned with icicles.

“I don’t like static lights” said Hanzon, as he showed strings of lights for the handsome ornamental pear trees that will phase from blue to green and back to blue. Smaller pear trees near the entrance will be festooned with special electric pears.

“I can string together a half mile of low-wattage LED lights and only pull 40 watts,” he said, compared to a bread loaf-sized cluster of standard bulbs on an adjoining table.

In the Garden Canopy, often the site of weddings in summer, 6-foot tables contained thousands of lights in varied hues. A map shows numbered trees in a specific area. Each will be tagged and the lights that belong on them will bear a corresponding tag. In addition to the lights on the tables, which must all be tested prior to installation, stacks of brown cardboard cartons, contained more lights.

Many of the LED lights are donated by Diogen Lighting of Centennial, Hanzon says. A major sponsor for the event, the company has sent samples of new lights Hanzon has designed for them, as well as items left over in showrooms from last season, making the elaborate display possible.

Hanzon expected one more shipment of items ordered from China at the end of the week, he said. More cartons of lighting strings are stacked in the barn, awaiting installation.

West of the Oval Garden is Evelyn and King Hudson’s 1950s ranch style residence, now used for Hudson Gardens’ administrative offices. Martha and Fred Kaplinski will move in for the holidays behind a wildly decorated false front. Fred, driven by his credo— “Deck them halls; deck them walls”— is a retired electrician with a vivid imagination, a Hanzon invention. Each year, he creates more decorations. Short voice-over scenarios are being recorded now to entertain visitors who stand in front of this over-the-top house. Hanzon had found the right Fred, but was still searching for Martha’s voice on Oct. 27.

Continue walking down the hill to the Garden Railroad and the miniature buildings and plants were awaiting their own special lights and a sparkling rhinestone-studded train, which Hanzon is working on at nights in his home studio. Train purists may be concerned, but kids will find it dazzling.

Lights and inflatable stars will continue through the Demonstration Gardens area, leading visitors toward the sturdy brand new barn with high lofts at each end and rafters where lights will be stored. It is part of the Hudson Holiday project. There, a hot cocoa vendor will be waiting as will tickets for those who want to go on a horse and carriage ride around the loop to the south end of the Gardens and back. Trial runs have established the route after it was discovered that the bridges were too small. There will be a stagecoach sort of four-person wagon and a larger hay wagon from Stockton Stables, both offering 13- to 15-minute rides, according to Hudson Gardens director Rich Meredith.

On Frost Island, farther south in the lower part of the Gardens, Tim Vacca and Schuyler Madden Leitner installed a gazebo with giant rotating chandelier — slated to be covered with hundreds of animated LED icicles.

By the pond, frames were in place for a camp with three colorful teepees, made by Colorado Yurt.

The barn still looked quite full, with the peak for the Kaplinshi’s house, three phone booths and other equipment for Emrey Gweldig’s wondrous display of his inventions and much more…

With snow storms predicted, Hanzon planned to pack up dozens of reels of ribbon and set up a “bow room” at the Museum of Outdoor Arts studios in Englewood, where crews could make the hundreds of bows needed for wreaths and garlands.

“You can never have too many bows” he declared.

Presumably, crews will continue to embellish trees and buildings and create magical vignettes until Hudson Holidays opens on Nov. 21.

Colorado Community Newspapers is a media sponsor for Hudson Holiday.

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., 303-797-8565 x 321. The Hudson Holiday Hotline is 303-353-1715. Ample free parking is available.


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