Garden of Lights

The Gift that Keeps on Glowing

By Karen Prather

Montrose Botanic Garden, Garden of Lights.    © William Woody

[December 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

THERE’S PLENTY TO DO ON THE WESTERN SLOPE this holiday season, but the Garden of Lights at the Botanic Gardens makes it especially bright. Each year, intricate and outstanding displays of lights illuminate our winter nights with thousands of LED bulbs of all sizes and colors, enjoyable from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage or an exploration by foot. In under a month, the Montrose Botanic Gardens transforms into a series of intricate and beautiful glowing structures resembling elements of nature and culture.

Community members proposed the Garden of Lights in 2014 to generate revenue for the Montrose Botanic Gardens and recommended Lorraine Snide, a resident widely known for her Christmas spirit, as the event facilitator. She was the perfect choice.

“It gets so dark out here, it’s mystical, magical,” says Lorraine. “You just don’t feel you’re in Montrose.” Free to the public, the Gardens run predominantly on donations, grants, and the extensive involvement of volunteers to employ a caretaker and remain as beautiful as the Montrose community, and the residents of Western Colorado have come to appreciate. According to Lorraine, this event not only brings in the most funds for the Gardens but, last year, hundreds of attendees’ posts made this event the most tagged Montrose event on Facebook.

Montrose Botanic Garden, Garden of Lights.    © William Woody

At the initiation of this event, her team “didn’t have a single light,” says Lorraine, but now, only five years later, the Garden of Lights has continued due to the dedication of the Montrose community. When the gardens team needed a place for Santa and his wife, the Colorado Yurt Company generously donated a teepee for their gathering. One year the local high school took on the responsibility of the event, hosting it when the Montrose Gardens could not.

One of Lorraine’s favorite memories of this event is of a six-year-old girl at the very first Garden of Lights. As the little girl skipped beneath the tunnel of dangling white string lights, Lorraine recalls her saying, “It’s like it’s raining rainbows.”

This year, the generous high school students and community volunteers who create these light features expect to see Moana, Elsa, Anna, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus under the stars in another enchanting display at the Montrose Botanic Gardens. Lorraine also notes, “We haven’t done it for a few years, but we’re bringing back the lighthouse, with its beautiful water feature,” all making the Montrose Garden of Lights a must-see attraction this winter.