Brookgreen Gardens
By Helen Benso

This year marks the 14thannual holiday lights festival, Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens. On December 7-8, 14-15, and 20-22, see the gardens come to life amid the soft glow of more than 5,500 hand-lit candles, thousands of sparking lights, and live entertainment. The best time to visit is at dusk when the fading sunset and the glow of the candles silhouette the sculpture and live oak trees to create a breathtaking display.

“The first year I came to this event I was completely awed.” recalls Bob Jewell, President and CEO.  “I’ve been to gardens all over the country and nothing compares to the beauty of the gardens during Nights of a Thousand Candles.  It’s a time of year when the entire staff and all our volunteers come together for a single purpose.  The event has grown over the years, but it’s important to reflect on how it began and to recognize some of the people involved in making Nights of a Thousand Candles such a tremendous success.”

The inspiration for the event came from the Brookgreen management team who wanted to offer the community an activity that would bring families and friends together for an evening outdoors during the holiday season. The plan was simple:  take a white paper bag, add some sand for weight and a candle. Then, line the garden paths with the warm glowing bags and station musicians in strategic locations for low-key entertainment. The event began as a two-day festival which included daytime activities that continued into the evening. It had about 1,800 visitors the first year and was considered a wonderful success.

Sara Millar, Vice-President of Horticulture said, “We’ve learned a lot over the years.  You definitely need to weigh down the floating candles so when the wind blows they stay in place. You also need to have lots of ladders to string the lights from the trees. It’s not like at home when you just drape them and hope they fall gracefully. It’s a skill and an art to decorate the gardens. “

“We have been to every Nights of a Thousand Candles since the beginning.  In fact, we come twice each year--once with our grandchildren and once with friends.  I feel that anything that will give this old curmudgeon the Christmas spirit has got to be wonderful.” said Jerry Noell, a long-time Brookgreen Volunteer.

Preparations are already well underway for this year’s event. Tickets are $16 for adults and $7 for children, and hours are from 3 – 10 p.m. for more information visit