The Holiday Lights Show (HLS) is officially over although we'll be leaving some of the lights up around the Parker Education Center for some rentals yet this month. This was a record HLS with attendance numbers around 10,400. We had some great marketing and exposure throughout Northern IL and in surrounding counties (WI) that brought many newcomers to this event. Some advertising/exposure on NBC15 (Madison) was certainly helpful too! We did cancel one night (December 30th) because of excessive moisture (rain/slush) as I couldn't keep most of the show on. However, this event went well and as a fundraiser, was very timely during our "down period." A big thank you to all the volunteers that helped with set-up and facilitation and are now helping with the monumental task of taking the show down and packing it up. We also had some wonderful sponsors of this event as well as much appreciated donations. The image above shows just some of the 2,000 milk jug luminaries that were picked up today. These all have to come in to thaw before we dump out the bottom layer of sand, used to anchor them out in the show. Despite the 9 degrees F start to the morning, we had some tough volunteers join Larry out in the gardens for the start of this process. I saw Big John, Marv, Terry, Ron W., Dick H., Pat M. and Urban. Bill was here as well and Dr. Gredler (to the left) started removing lights from obelisks and wrapping up cords as they came in to thaw. Maury was around and did some work Larry orchestrates the take down as it is very weather dependent and we try to bring in as much as possible before we get real sour weather. On Saturday, Larry and Bill pulled up most of the primary cords that were buried under gravel pathways as we'd rather do it now than in March! Below are Larry (left) and Dick H. (right) taking down some of our dangling icicle lights. Their scowls have something to do with me being to delicate to come outside and join the fun. Warmer weather later this week will result in quite a bit of the HLS coming down in short order. After spending half the day catching up with bills, mail and emails, I now have to prioritize my indoor projects. Seed ordering, while being the most fun, is also the most daunting project as I am (as I type), looking at a stack of 60 or so seed catalogs. I've already done the "initial peruse" of most of these and circled some fun stuff. However, we need to order seeds for not only the grounds but also our plant sale offerings. Janice is assisting and we'll really get in to it this week and next. With the Wisconsin Public Television sponsored Garden Expo (www.wigardenexpo.com) coming up in early February (10-12), I'm also working on some ideas for our booth and preparing three presentations (Annuals of Interest, Gardening Vertically and Eat Your Landscape). This event is always lots of fun and one of our best opportunities to expose the gardens to potential visitors (and supporters!). I'll get most of my spring presentations prepared this month and am looking forward to some new topics. To the right is Vern repainting one of our garbage bins today. The carpenters have plenty of 2012 work cut out for them and no shortage of projects. We also saw Bob A., Rollie, Deb G., Janice and Nancy N. today. Nancy (bottom photo) is helping Janice reorganize our ever-growing reference library which has benefitted from some very substantial book donations in 2011.
It looks like RBG ended 2011 on a positive note financially, thanks to a strong HLS and some nice year-end grants and year-end donations (it's not too late!). We received the WI DNR Urban Forestry grant which will allow for the addition of new trees in our main parking lot with interpretive signage for each of these tree selections. Other grants will help support operations in 2012 as well as some additional funding for significant labeling materials to continue our efforts on interpretive plant label production/conversion efforts out in the gardens. 2012 is starting off quite nicely as we finish out our 2011 obligations and look forward to another great year at RBG.