BOOTHBAY — For Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the show will indeed go on this year. Recently, the Gardens announced that, after careful planning, research, communication with state and town officials, and in conjunction with COVID-19 safety protocols, Gardens Aglow will light up the peninsula for the sixth year in a row—with one important change: what has been a walking tour in previous years will become a driving experience in 2020.
“We wanted to find a safe way of continuing and honoring what’s become an annual tradition for so many families,” says Gardens’ President and CEO Gretchen Ostherr. “Our committee has worked hard to map out the safest, most accessible route, taking traffic and congestion very much into consideration.”
To ensure that traffic will flow smoothly, both on the peninsula and along the Gardens Aglow route, CMBG made the decision to establish limited entries per 15-minute intervals. “We worked with the town of Boothbay, and this system will help us avoid backups onto the road,” says Ostherr.
Tickets are sold by the car, not by the individual, and are only available in advance for a specific time slot. “To ensure the success and safety of this event,” Ostherr explains, “we will not be selling tickets on site, and our patrons must print their tickets before arrival.” Cars that arrive without tickets will be turned away.
Cars that exceed height restrictions (no more than nine feet in height) will also be turned away, and no refunds will be given. There will be no trailers, buses, limos, or RVs allowed on the route. Because this is a driving tour, guests will remain in their cars, making the event safe in the light of COVID restrictions. No food or facilities will be on offer this year, but those interested are welcome to access the Gardenshop online, shop.mainegardens.org, for seasonal shopping.
A driving tour, rather than a walking tour, means Gardens’ staff has had to re-envision the display, but it’s giving them the opportunity to get creative and produce something new — even those who have made Gardens Aglow their holiday tradition can expect something new this year. It’s also giving peninsula residents an opportunity to get creative; once again, CMBG will sponsor their annual Community Lighting Contest.
This year, entrants in the contest will be included on a comprehensive map which will be available on the Gardens Aglow website. Visitors will be able to use the map to tour the peninsula and extend their
seasonal outing. They can even vote for their favorite displays; winners in both the residential and business categories will be determined by popular vote.
“This has been a challenging year,” concludes Ostherr. “But for the health of our region, our organization, and the families who look forward to this seasonal event, this year’s Gardens Aglow will go forward: warm, safe, and accessible to all.”
Gardens Aglow, a firm tradition in Maine’s seasonal calendar, runs Thursdays-Sundays, Nov. 21- Jan. 2, plus the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and every night, Christmas Day through Jan. 2, 4:30-8:30 p.m. The event is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Tickets are $40/car for nonmembers and $30 for members.
Between Gardens Aglow and Boothbay Lights, the Boothbay peninsula will again be the place to be for wintertime cheer. Experience the Gardens’ explosion of festive color, then enjoy a wide variety of the region’s seasonal activities. For more details and to order tickets, visit GardensAglow.org. For a complete calendar of regional offerings, visit boothbaylights.com.
At nearly 325 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the largest public Garden in New England. Voted #1 on TripAdvisor, the nationally recognized public garden is located in Boothbay, Maine. The mission of the Gardens is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants, and nature through horticulture, education, and research. Visit us at MaineGardens.org or call 207-633-8000.