Fantasy in Lights celebrates 30th anniversary

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 10, 2022

There’s a reason Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy in Lights has a huge number of repeat guests — seeing one of the Southeast’s best Christmas light shows never gets old.

The proof is in the numbers, too.

This year Callaway is celebrating its 30th anniversary of Fantasy in Lights. The annual event started in 1992 with five scenes but has now expanded to more than 10 million lights and 17 scenes, thanks to the addition of the new Celebration Lake addition this year.

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Approximately 60% of Fantasy in Lights visitors are from Georgia, but Marketing Manager Rachael McConnell said there are many that travel from out of state as well. In 2021, guests from within 50 miles comprised 42% of all Fantasy in Lights visitors, meaning visitors from local areas, such as Troup County, flock to the experience.

“We have over 250,000 people visit every year, at least, but it has touched millions of people throughout the 30 years that we’ve had the event,” McConnell said.

Regular visitors also come from Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. Unlike other displays, Callaway has a calling that keeps many families coming back every year.

“I think that’s one of the unique things about Fantasy in Lights is that it keeps making families want to come back because it’s memories that are worth repeating,” she said.

Seemingly every year, Fantasy in Lights grows with a new scene. This year the Celebration Lake addition was viewed as the perfect way to mark three decades.

“It comprises of 30 different floating trees, and they dance to this beautiful sound and light show,” McConnell said. “It’s kind of looking like the trees are almost dancing and singing on the water, and it leads to a festive finale for the guests because they come up to that scene and right after that it leads into the tunnel of lights, which was our newest thing last year. Then it has the big showstopper — the magical field of lights was just the tallest Christmas tree in the South.”

McConnell said they start in August putting up lights, calling it a team effort from 700 different employees.

“We have families out here right after summer that will see people putting up little snowflakes in the trees and so really from August right until we open we are constantly putting up different scenes and tweaking things,” she said. “We actually have a dedicated team member that’s constantly working on restringing some of the scenes to make sure that all the lights are intact.”

In Pine Mountain, where Callaway Gardens is located, the amount of traffic always increases as a clear sign it’s Fantasy in Lights season. McConnell said it’s important for Callaway that the gardens have an impact on the Pine Mountain business community as well.

“People come also for the holiday shopping, so knowing that we can work and have that great relationship with Pine Mountain is vital for us,” she said.

Another new addition to Fantasy in Lights is the availability to walk the show, instead of riding the Jolly Trolley or driving your own vehicle — the traditional options. Previously, walking through the lights was only available once a year. Now, it’s a nightly option.

“Last year when we introduced the candlelight Christmas Village, we wanted guests to be able to … actually get out of their cars and walk through the twinkling scenes and the more expanded Christmas Village and everything else,” she said. “So that is now a nightly event that guests can come to whenever they come to the drive-thru portion as well.”

The Christmas Village includes shopping, as well as a chance to see Santa himself.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit https://www.callawaygardens.com/the-gardens/events/fantasy-in-lights/.