One of the best kept secrets in the southeastern United States is Callaway Gardens nestled away among the pine trees and azaleas of west central Georgia. Thirty miles to the south is Georgia’s second largest city, Columbus. Callaway is a favorite romantic getaway for couples who are looking for peace and quiet and want to feel submerged in the beauty of nature. Cabins and chalets are available with all the amenities that allow for comfort and rest.
Callaway’s fantasy of lights was a dream of its co-founder, Virginia Callaway. She grew of in Pelham, Georgia and she harbored fine memories of Christmas lights bringing the life and joy of Christmas to her southern hometown. Her dream was to see Callaway gardens lit up for Christmas. In 1992, Callaway Gardens opened Fantasy in Lights and became the first to present such a display in the state of Georgia. Now, twenty years later, Fantasy of Lights has one of the largest Christmas light presentations in the world.
This Christmas trek through the Georgia wood is approximately five miles long. Each scene has been specifically designed for the contour of the winding paths that web their way through the park. The bright intensity of the lights are doubled when they are seen reflecting off the many lakes and waterways of the park.
My family attends the Christmas festivities of Callaway Gardens every year as a part of our family tradition. My six year old son is very excited to visit this year with his “Nanny” and “Papa”. If the temperatures are cold we usually begin the evening with a cup of hot chocolate and a funnel cake. A visit to the Christmas village will allow us to see Santa Clause and sample Christmas candies and contemplate the purchase of crafts and recipes of the locals.
We can then board a tram (The Jolley Trolley) for those brave enough to endure the cold and in extremely rare cases, snow. The fantasy begins as we view scenes and sing along to The Twelve Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland, The Night Before Christmas and Santa’s Workshop. One of our favorites is watching the frog jump onto a lily pad on Swan Lake. The children are always up for seeing lit up owls, elves, swans, raccoons and other cheerful creatures.
This amazing display contains over 8,000,000 lights and 3,500 extension cords to make the music available. Thirty two miles of cable is laid every year and all the lights strung together would stretch over 731 miles. It takes six weeks to set up accumulating nearly 4,000 man-hours to accomplish the task. Ninety minutes are needed for two workers to flip 1,000 switches at the beginning and end of each show.
When the show is over, hundreds of families load their cars and climb Pine Mountain to return to Columbus, Phenix City and other towns and villages in the area. The distant sound of Christmas music sounds a bit haunting as it drifts upward from the deep valley below. Sleeping babies and weary children snuggle in for a long ride home with images of sugar plums dancing in their heads.