JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE Braelyn Dejardin, 4, and her brother Braxton, 5, look at the festive lights on display at the Dothan Area Botanical Garden's Gardens A-Glow in 2018. Visitors at the annual event are treated to Christmas lights and displays, hot chocolate and Santa Claus.

Editor’s Note: This story was previously published in the Dothan Eagle’s quarterly community magazine Discover Wiregrass. It’s being published in today’s edition as a reminder of this upcoming holiday Wiregrass event that starts Friday night.

It’s shiny and bright, and takes place Friday nights…

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, you don’t want to miss this year’s “Gardens Aglow” at Dothan Area Botanical Gardens, so you know.

This year’s seventh annual event is sure to be better than ever, with more new animated exhibits and more lights than ever, according to event chairman Larry Dykes.

“There’s going be a lot more out there this year,” he said. “We have many more lights and aesthetic displays. ... I’m sure we have several miles of lights out there now, and we add more and more every year.”

The half-mile trail will be lit with thousands of lights and a number of Christmas-themed displays in a festive atmosphere with Christmas tunes to put some holiday cheer in your heart along the way

“Come one, come all”

Santa will be there too, saying “come one, come all,” inviting everyone to tour the lights. He and the gardens staff welcome wheelchairs, wagons and strollers along the paved trail. You can even bring your furry friend, as long as he’s been good this year and doesn’t mind being leashed.

Dykes said the trail normally takes about 30 minutes to an hour to walk through, but you can go at your own pace. Take in the beauty of the 24 gardens and other areas of interest like the decorated gazebo or the Lover’s Lock gate, and snap some photos while you’re there. Take a break if you need to. There will be a pit stop with free hot chocolate, cookies and treats for your pet.

There are stuffed Christmas creatures and characters that have hidden themselves in the trees and shrubbery. Dykes encourages children to bring a flashlight to see where they have tucked themselves away.

The event will take place every Friday from 5-8 p.m. from Thanksgiving until the week after Christmas — Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13, 20 and 27.

Parents should note that Santa returns to the North Pole after Christmas.

This year, ticket pricing structure is different. Tickets will be $8 per person, with children 8 and under admitted free. Dogs are free as well.

All proceeds will help the nonprofit’s operating fund for the maintenance and upkeep of the gardens.

It’s trending

In 2013, only about 500 people visited when it was a four-night event. Last year, Dykes said the gardens welcomed between 4,000 to 5,000 visitors.

“When we started this event back in 2013, we were simply looking for a winter event to have at the gardens — something around the holiday period. Something interesting to do would be to have the lights to light up the gardens at night so the people that come out will see the garden in a whole different light,” Dykes said.

The event has become particularly popular among out-of-towners visiting family in the Wiregrass, which is part of the reason another date has been added after Christmas. It’s also become a tradition many locals look forward to every year.

“I think it’s an event that people have grown accustomed to and look forward to. It’s a unique way to see the gardens,” Dykes said.

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