Many hands make lights work at this familar-but-always-changing holiday tradition.

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THE GARDEN d’LIGHTS FESTIVAL at Bellevue Botanical Garden opens Nov. 25 and runs through the end of the year, featuring thousands of plants, flowers and animals, all fashioned from strings of LED lights. According to Nancy Kartes, the garden manager, the displays are crafted by dedicated volunteer teams who work several thousand hours, using more than 500,000 lights.

In November, the volunteers become garden designers, soldiering through rain and cold to install the light show. One thing’s for sure: Their passion shows in the magical gardens they create.

In its 23rd year, the display features more than 75 kinds of plants and flowers and more than 30 “animals,” with new ones added every year. It’s great fun to play plant ID, trying to guess whether the lit-up flower is an iris, hollyhock, day lily, sunflower, or maybe an allium. New this year, you’ll find a Bonsai tree. And the popular poinsettia has had a complete makeover and now glows with more than 11,000 lights.

Garden d’Lights Festival

When: Nov. 25-Dec. 31, from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (lights off at 9:30 p.m.).

Where: Bellevue Botanical Garden, 12001 Main St., Bellevue.

Food: Coffee, cocoa and treats will be available for purchase in The Aaron Education Center.

Tickets: $5 at the door, or reserved in advance. Children 10 and under are free. From Nov. 27-30 and Dec. 4-7, there is no charge, and tickets are not required.

Parking: Cost is $5 per vehicle at the garden (cash only), but free parking is available just a short walk away at Wilburton Hill Park.

Information: For more on free nights, or to reserve tickets, visit

The newest critter is a big, beautiful bee that will be named from a contest for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Every year, the display changes, and all the plants and animals are moved to new locations throughout the garden. New this year, the main path for the light show will go through the just-completed urban meadow. Kids (even big kids like me) love hunting for their perennial favorites. Where did Snap d’Dragon and his 8,850 lights roam to? Find the slime trail, and it will lead you to Willy the Slug, but be careful when you look for Charlotte. You don’t want to join the fly already entangled in her web. My favorite is the incredibly scary Frank the Alligator. OK; I don’t know whether he’s really named Frank, but I call him that because he looks just like my old grade-school buddy, Frank Sardusky.

Even after most of the work is done, the festival still needs volunteers. If you’re interested in helping craft future displays (training provided) or serve as a much-needed greeter during this year’s event, visit, click on the “volunteer” tab and submit an application. You will be contacted by the volunteer program coordinator. If you work as a greeter, make sure you know where all the animals are. You’re likely to be besieged by kids (like me) who will be frustrated beyond tweedle if they can’t figure out where Freddie the Frog is hiding!