When Luminaria turned the Ashton Gardens into a night-time, Christmas-time, family-time event in 2016, more than 58,000 bundled attendees walked the paths. Last year, that number climbed to 87,000. For 2018, they anticipate more than 102,000 will “Let It Glow.”
This illuminating event in the valley’s most iconic location includes all the lights and music from the past two years, plus a few magical additions, including Childhood Noel, which is a glowing carousel surrounded by horses in fenced boxes.
Attendee feedback continues to point to the Light of World sculpture garden as the highlight of the event. With larger-than-life bronze statues of Jesus Christ’s life and miracles, the true meaning of Christmas is nestled amidst the modern-day celebrations of gingerbread, snowmen and s’mores.
Cold temperatures are often in the air, but the lights, music and fragrances also put love in the air.
“We had six proposals last year — and those are the ones we know of!” says Austin Brown, director of signature experiences at Thanksgiving Point.
Guests spend an average of one to two hours strolling the one-mile walk through the winter wonderland.
“The biggest mistake people make is being in a hurry to get to the ‘destination’ of Luminaria,” Austin says. “Once you’ve taken your first step, you’re in the experience. Every part of the path has a theme, music, smells and sounds that tell part of the Christmas story. It’s a mile-long sensory experience.”
Katy Lemley, ‘Reindeer Wrangler’
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen? Guests of Luminaria get to know the middle two sung about in that famous lyric, as Dancer and Prancer are the live reindeer hanging out at Reindeer Woods.
During most of the year, Katy Lemley works in the education department at Thanksgiving Point, but from the week of Thanksgiving to the first week in January, Katy is a “reindeer wrangler” at Luminaria.
Last year Thanksgiving Point chose Katy and some of her co-workers to be reindeer wranglers. This meant they all became experts in reindeer to help guests get to know these iconic Christmas animals.
“We learn firsthand how to take care of the animals, how to be kind to them and how to treat them with respect,” Katy says. “We also make sure we are in control of the situation so nobody gets hurt. It’s great to experience new things like reindeer wrangling. I never thought I’d put that on my resume, but there it is!”
Often kids will ask Katy, “Are those Santa’s reindeer?”
To that Katy will respond with a hearty, “Yes!” and explain that the furry friends are visiting relatives in Utah. She tells them not to worry because they will be back to the North Pole to help Santa before Dec. 24th.
Katy loves to see the magic of Christmas at work at Luminaria and to help families create Christmas memories.
“I love it because we’ve proven time and again with our guests that when they learn something together as a family or as friends, that’s a bonding moment for them,” Katy says.
Katy also shares trivia about the reindeer. Some guests stay for 30 seconds to see Santa’s favorite animal, and some stay for 10 minutes to learn more and touch the real reindeer pelt and antler on display.
One of Katy’s favorite fun facts is that reindeer actually have red noses — seen with thermal imaging. In order to regulate their body temperature, reindeer have 25 percent more blood vessels in their noses than humans have. The extra heat helps them regulate brain temperature and increases nose sensitivity when sniffing in the snow. All this extra heat makes a reindeer’s nose glow “so bright” under thermal imaging.