Callaway Gardens' Fantasy In Lights behind the scenes - WFLA News Channel 8

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Callaway Gardens' Fantasy In Lights behind the scenes

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PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -

Fantasy In Lights is the biggest production Callaway Gardens puts on each year, and it draws in visitors from around the world.

12 scenes, 8,000,000 lights, and enough light strings to outline the state of South Carolina make up the show, but the Fantasy In Lights staff has it down to a science.

Each day Assistant Technical Director Connell Simpson and his team examine every light, wire and speaker in Fantasy In Lights. It takes hours and is a full-time job. "Constantly it's a battle hard-fought," he says, "but we get it done. We have to get it done. There's no choice about it because everyday it's something. If it's manmade, it breaks."

It takes a trained eye to catch each little light that goes out. Simpson takes pride in his attention to detail. Callaway Gardens hires hundreds of workers every year just to put on the light show. The set-up takes six weeks to install but planning starts long before then.

"We actually think about it year-round," says Marketing Director Rachel Crumbley. "We have people on the team for Fantasy In Lights who work on the lights year-round, plan for the next year, and then from a behind-the-scenes perspective as well, we start thinking about how we're going to market it and get the word out starting in May, June."

22 years ago was a different story. Winter was a hard time for the Gardens. Now, however, it's their most prominent season.

"It turns what was originally a very slow time at Callaway Gardens into our busiest time of year," says Crumbley, "and allows us to help our employees, our team members, support their families as well as bring tremendous economic impact to our region."

To ensure its success, the Fantasy In Lights staff works tirelessly to make it just right. Once everything is checked, at 6 p.m., that's when the magic starts.

The Gardens are filled with music and laughter as hundreds ride through the light show each night. Whether in one of the 20 trolleys, which come complete with narration, or riding along in their own car, there's a wonderful sight for all, and the reward for those who put in the hard work is priceless.

Crumbley says, "Getting letters from people who say, 'This makes our Christmas,' seeing little kids with Santa Claus, that makes it for us, but also knowing that we're helping so many team members provide for their families."

The last day to visit Fantasy In Lights is Dec. 30th. Tickets start at $17 for adults and $8.50 for kids. For more information, visit http://www.callawaygardens.com/events/signature/fantasy-in-lights.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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