For many homeowners, hanging Christmas lights is an annual holiday chore. Imagine installing two million lights across a 150-acre theme park. Now think about the dozens of other holiday-themed elements that must be in place before Christmas Town: A Busch Gardens Celebration opens to the guests November 26.
Hundreds of decorative wreaths will be hung throughout the park and Christmas Town's iconic 50-foot animated Christmas tree will be assembled by a team of lighting and rigging specialists. Busch Gardens' creative team is busy installing the new theme for the park's Italy village complete with a golden color palette and graceful angels as far as the eye can see. In addition, everything must be in order at Santa's Workshop before the jolly old elf arrives.
It's all in a day's, and night's, work for Scott Gasparich, Busch Gardens' vice president of entertainment. Gasparich and a team of master decorators and contractors are mid-way through Busch Gardens' complete transformation into a Christmas-themed winter wonderland.
Just a few days remain before Christmas Town opens to the public, and a lot of work remains to create the magic of Virginia's newest holiday tradition.
"Howl-O-Scream ended just about two weeks ago, and we have been working non-stop ever since to prepare Busch Gardens for our guests this holiday season," Gasparich said.
Gasparich's team gets little sleep during this busy time of the year. On any given day or night, someone from his team can be found inside a small dressing room inside the park that has been converted into the operations hub for the event team. The dressing room, lit by florescent lights and littered with musical instruments, dorm-style couches, rain gear and two-way radios, serves as the nerve center of the Christmas Town transformation. Rolled up engineering blueprints lie on the room's dressing tables and a single laptop buzzes and clicks on a makeshift desk nearby. Across the room, someone has written out the week's work schedule on a white board hung on an exterior wall. Outside, golf carts and boom lifts move along Busch Gardens' pathways on their way to install Christmas Town's holiday-themed elements.
Twenty-five days is not very long to completely break down and pack away all of the Howl-O-Scream theme elements and to install Christmas Town. Gasparich and his team employ several time-saving techniques to ease some of the pressure.
"Truth be told, some of the things guests will see during Christmas Town remained in place throughout the year," he said. "You'd really have to strain your eyes to see them, but some of the holiday lights we installed on taller structures have been in place since last year."
The team has mastered repurposing existing elements from other events. Remember the hanging ghosts that added to the spooky feel of Scotland during Howl-O-Scream? The matrix of wires used to hang them was installed this past summer in anticipation for their use during Christmas Town. The matrix will now support a canopy of stars to impart a feeling of peace as guests stroll by the Highland Stables on their way to Ireland.
The end is in sight for the decorating team at Busch Gardens.
"When guests visit Christmas Town starting Nov. 26, they will see a completely transformed park that will make them say, 'Now this is Christmas,'" said Gasparich.
Busch Gardens is extending its Christmas Town operation through New Year's Eve by adding five additional operating days to its schedule. The park also will present a 10 p.m. fireworks extravaganza on New Year's Eve. Christmas Town will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 3 – 10 p.m. starting Nov. 26, and will open daily from Dec. 17 through Dec. 31, excluding Christmas Day. The park will close at 9 p.m. on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and on Christmas Eve.