This holiday season, Enchant Christmas plans to transform Safeco Field into a winter wonderland, with a huge light maze, an 8,500-square-foot ice-skating trail and a Christmas market with about 70 vendors.

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There’s something magical about holiday lights: The way they turn ordinary houses into glittering castles, fir trees into symbols of holiday cheer and, of course, how they signify a pending visit from Santa Claus. Even still, Kevin Johnston, founder of Enchant Christmas, coming to Safeco Field from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30, saw a way to take these holiday staples further: A light maze.

This holiday season, Enchant Christmas plans to transform Safeco Field into a winter wonderland, with a huge light maze in the outfield, an 8,500-square-foot ice-skating trail in the infield and a Christmas market featuring approximately 70 vendors ranging from glassybaby to those involved with Urban Craft Uprising.

As you enter the stadium for Enchant, expect a different kind of cheer than the rowdy crowds and booming loudspeakers of baseball season.

Instead, expect the friendly bustle of people walking through an intricate light maze that includes huge light sculptures of orbs and snowflakes, and, at the center, an 80-foot-tall cantilevered tree of lights.

Holiday Events Guide 2018

Enchant Christmas, which features a light maze — such as this one, seen in an overhead view, in Arlington, Texas, last year — comes to Safeco Field starting Nov. 23. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)
Enchant Christmas, which features a light maze — such as this one, seen in an overhead view, in Arlington, Texas, last year — comes to Safeco Field starting Nov. 23. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)

Infield, visitors can rent a pair of skates and sail through the illuminated archways and trees on the 350-foot-long ice-skating loop, while listening to local artists like Starlight Choir perform live on the mainstage. (Tickets will be staggered to prevent overcrowding the maze and ice trail).

Visitors can also warm their hands with a cup of hot chocolate from the Christmas market, shop for jewelry, homewares and gifts, or head over to Santa’s workshop for pictures and a story.

This will be the third year of Enchant Christmas events produced by Shine Lighting Group, a Vancouver, B.C.-based company founded by Johnston. The company debuted Enchant Christmas in downtown Vancouver in 2016 and followed up with another in Arlington, Texas, in 2017. This is the first year Enchant comes to Seattle.

Johnston has been in the lighting business since he was 19. At the time, he and his best friend started going door to door in Vancouver, offering to put lights up for their neighbors. From there, they got offers to do commercial spaces and began manufacturing their own designs. Six years in, an even brighter business idea came along.

“It was literally just a conversation with my best friend and he had mentioned that it would be neat to see a maze of light,” Johnston said. “ ‘Light maze’ just clicked in my head. I started thinking about it a lot.”

A light sculpture seen from inside an Enchant Christmas light maze.  (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas / Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)
A light sculpture seen from inside an Enchant Christmas light maze. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas / Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)

Johnston made a plan for the maze and took it to the city of Vancouver for approval — but bringing the idea to life proved harder than he thought.

“The city said they would treat us like a building. Therefore, you have to have everyone in the maze at least 15 meters from an exit. I thought, that won’t work for a maze. At that point, I had to go back to the drawing board,” Johnston said.

Instead of gearing the maze toward “getting lost,” he said, he decided to make it more of an aesthetic-driven experience framed around a scavenger hunt with a narrative (and that also satisfied city regulations). Johnston and his team started coming up with children’s books — 16-page books with coloring pages – that give the maze a fun story that helps guide people through it. (The theme for Seattle’s light maze is “The Great Search,” centered around a story of nine lost reindeer that mazegoers must find.)

Enchant Vancouver was a huge success — a little too huge. It was forced to leave its 2016 site because the event caused too much traffic congestion. So Shine turned its attention to Arlington in 2017, which offered a bigger lot and more parking. But in 2018, it yearned to return to the Pacific Northwest.

“We did look around Vancouver to find a new location but nothing was panning out. Plus, it rained a lot on us there,” Johnston said. Then, out of the blue, Safeco Field contacted the company.

The retractable-roof baseball stadium offers several perks over previous iterations of Enchant Christmas, Johnston said. First, the roof keeps everything cozy and dry. Second, the stadium’s suites and restaurants overlooking the maze can be rented by those hosting private parties — from small families to corporate teams.

A rendering of the planned ice-skating trail at Enchant Christmas, which will take over Safeco Field from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)
A rendering of the planned ice-skating trail at Enchant Christmas, which will take over Safeco Field from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30. (Courtesy of Enchant Christmas)

Johnston says it was important to him to make the event feel “authentically Seattle,” with his team working hard to keep things local.

Some nights at Enchant will be in partnership with local charities; ticket-buyers can also have $2 of their ticket price go to a charity of their choosing. The organizers bring a local touch to the market and the stage, too, with local artisans participating and Seattle-area bands such as D’Vonne Lewis Trio, The Vintage Jazz Duo and Endolyne Children’s Choir performing.

Enchant has also remembered Seattle’s furry friends: Two nights at Enchant, called “Paws N’ Claus,” will be dedicated to the city’s love of dogs. For those nights only, visitors will be allowed to bring one leashed dog per adult inside the stadium to traverse the maze, get pictures with Santa and enjoy special “pup swag” bags. A waste-disposal team will be on hand to clean up after Fido.

There’s one thing, though, common to all Enchant Christmases that Johnston bets will happen in Seattle, too: the gleeful faces at the end of the maze, where he hands out candy canes.

“It doesn’t really matter how old you are — you’ve got kids in there, you’ve got date nights, you’ve got groups of moms,” he said. “Everyone is having a really good time.”

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Enchant Christmas. Nov. 23-Dec. 30; Safeco Field, 1250 First Ave. S., Seattle; tickets start at $19.99 for single tickets, $69.99 for family 4-pack, VIP tickets and group rates for more than 15 people available; enchantchristmas.com/seattle

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