Family Fun
December 12, 2013 • 07:48:33 a.m.

Unique light displays switch on enchantment

By RENEE TOMELL - rtomell@shawmedia.com

"Symphony in Lights" transforms The Promenade Bolingbrook. (Shaw Media file photo)

From tiny twinklers to a premiere experience joining light to nature, the suburbs shine brightly this holiday season.

"Illumination: Tree Lights" transforms The Morton Arboretum with a one-of-a-kind artistic event, said Anamari Dorgan, director of education and one of the planners behind the effects. Among her personal favorites is the juniper grove, where three trees among the 11 have different special properties.

“You can hug one of the three, so you make the entire grove of junipers respond (in a) joyful array of changing colors,” Dorgan said. “We want people to care about trees – to see them in a new light – to have a relationship. And we want people to have fun.”

She notes that “Illumination” is a powerful way of making the connection; it's literally a way to shine a light on trees and their value to the world.

Normally, the Arboretum is not open after dark, however, this holiday season through Jan. 4, visitors will find numerous special effects along a mile-long, walking trail. They can view over-sized projections of their own faces on a canvas of trees, create falling snowflakes, spot crystal chandeliers, and sing to the trees to watch them respond.

Offered are three concession areas, including a make-your-own s’mores station, and outdoor fire pits. Special event nights are detailed at mortonarb.org/illumination, and advance ticket purchase is recommended. The attraction is closed certain nights.

At a nearby venue, the volume goes up for a sonic light show nightly at The Promenade Bolingbrook, where a kinetic quarter million lights are computer-controlled to visually convey the effervescent rhythms of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Kris Kuchler, director of marketing, said Symphony in Lights' "gorgeous" effects center on a 48-foot tree and giant dancing snowflakes. Shows are offered gratis on the hour from 5 to 9 p.m. to New Year's Eve (www.thepromenadebolingbrook.com).

“It's a really great show, and we love being able (to) give families a nice tradition,” Kuchler said.

Two suburban zoos are lighting up their night skies, including Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.

“There are over 20,000 twinkling lights that come on (for) a great holiday atmosphere,” said Bonnie McMaken, staff writer of the Wheaton Park District. “It's really lovely.”

The Festival of Lights blinks on through Dec. 30, and also features Christmas tree sales until Dec. 24 to support the zoo (www.cosleyzoo.org).

“This is a fun opportunity for families to come out and start a new tradition and choose their tree, drink some hot chocolate, and choose holiday gifts or wreaths for sale,” McMaken said.

A new laser light show is part of Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo, where a million colorful lights transform the darkness, and entertainment is offered nightly. A light and video show will be projected, and Santa has a new home away from home.

“As another new feature, we're going to have a 38-foot talking tree, (who) asks questions and tells jokes and talks to the children,” said Julia Enderle, the zoo's on-site marketing coordinator (www.brookfieldzoo.org).

Making its debut is the Festival of Lights, co-sponsored by the Bloomingdale Park District and the village, said Director of Recreation Sandy Vangundy. An amped up display of holiday lights will brighten Old Town Park's trees and pavilion, with giant teddy bears and presents among the shining displays. Inside the park district's nearby museum will be exhibits and holiday activities for families, along with hot chocolate and cookies.

“There are select days (for) horse-drawn carriage rides around the park, live reindeer and an ice sculpture demonstration,” she said. “It's going to be really nice – something they'd like to grow each year.”

The fun continues through December, with details at www.bloomingdaleparks.org.


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