For 31 years now, the Celebration in the Oaks in City Park has been filling the holidays with sweetness and lights. With about 170,000 people coming to enjoy the light displays and related activities, Celebration in the Oaks has become as much of a New Orleans holiday tradition as Papa Noel and oyster dressing.
But what exactly goes into decking the halls of City Park every year? A holiday light spectacular on the massive scale of Celebration in the Oaks uses 558,350 LED bulbs and nearly 33,000 feet of rope light. To hang all those lights and keep them in place, they use approximately 8,000 feet of zip cord, nearly 100,000 4-inch cable ties, and 2,000 feet of heavy gauge wire. Not to mention, it takes the creativity, hard work, and devotion of a mere seven regular staff members, along with plenty of volunteers, eight months to install all those lights. They do everything themselves, by hand—from the designing and building of the displays to the hanging of the lights. No easy task. For each and every display (and there are over 25 of them!), it can take up to ten days to put up the lights… and another ten days to take them down again.
Makes hanging those icicle lights and putting that Frosty the Snowman on your roof seem like a piece of cake, doesn’t it?
Said Julie LaCour, Director of Celebration of the Oaks, “It takes a lot of Gorilla Glue, mesh, and burnt fingers to put together all those light displays.” Julie even owns up to the fact that while installing the “Sea-Labration” display, she got her head stuck in the giant moving Gulf Oyster.
The famous “Dripping Snow Tree” is one of City Park’s many oak trees (the park boasts one of the largest live oak collections in the entire world) draped in white twinkly lights. Though there are well over 40,000 LED bulbs in this tree alone, they all connect to just one plug and use no more electricity than your average toaster. And speaking of toasts of another sort… the romantic Dripping Snow Tree is the site of countless marriage proposals every year. Cheers.
The giant poinsettia tree located in the Conservatory is made up of 500 live poinsettias, stacked up in Christmas-tree form. Julie says she places her poinsettia order as early as June to make sure that the local growers have time to get her the prettiest, brightest red poinsettias possible, in precisely six-inch pots (no foil allowed).
City Park’s largest and most famous winter resident is of course Mr. Bingle. The 17 X 29-foot fiberglass Christmas icon was born in Chicago in 1948, and has been spending his holidays in City Park since 2005. Bingle is brought to the park every year for Celebration in the Oaks in three parts, and reassembled on site. He is the only display that is not created by the City Park staff from scratch. And like most celebrities, he’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
If that’s not enough holiday cheer in one spot, guests can also admire Christmas trees decorated by local students, listen to Christmas music and other live entertainment, and enjoy Christmas-y refreshments like hot chocolate, beignets and other goodies. They can shop for holiday gifts from the many local artists and vendors there, or go for a ride-- on the nearly 100-year-old Carousel, the Ladybug Roller Coaster, or the mini train. The train takes guests to view some of the further-out light displays, such as Dinosaur Land and the French Quarter Neighborhood Scene. For almost 100 years now this train has been chugging through two miles of City Park’s 1300 acres, and not only during the holidays. Though the train actually runs ten months out of the year, in the winter it certainly gets a lot more action. During Celebration in the Oaks, anywhere from 3000 to 5000 people ride the train on any given night.
Celebration in the Oaks brings in close to $2 million a year, and accounts for 13 to 15% of City Park’s entire annual budget. Your contribution to those funds will only run you $8 a person, though children under three and Friends of City Park are free. Train and amusement park rides are additional.
Come out to Celebration of the Oaks this holiday season… so that you, too, may begin to see the lights.
The 2017-2018 season: November 25 - January 1 (Closed: 11/27 - 11/30, 12/24, and 12/31)
Monday - Thursday: 6 p.m. -10 p.m.
Friday: 6 p.m. -11 p.m.
Saturday: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Last entry to event is 20 minutes prior to closing.
Tickets: $9/person (Children under 3 and Friends of City Park: Free)
Train Ride: $5
Amusement Park Rides: $4/single ride ticket (excludes train), $18/unlimited ride band (includes train)
For more information, go to: http://neworleanscitypark.com/celebration-in-the-oaks