The Garden d’Lights Build & Install Team
By Lucy Braginski
Carl is one of two repair people on the Garden d’Lights volunteer team. He’s been volunteering for 27 years- since the beginning of Garden d’Lights. His co-repair volunteer is Monica Privat. As repair volunteers, Carl and Monica work with broken lights, flowers, and anything part of the event flora that isn’t working. Carl says they can spend hours on a broken piece, and having “two mindsets… [is] pretty efficient.” Carl got involved through a past docent who told him about the show and it sparked Carl’s interest. He used to work in circuit board design, which requires the same “intense concentration.” He and his partner, Cathy, were presented with the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society Trillium award in 2019. The Society presents the Trillium Award each year to three outstanding volunteers. Carl’s favorite part is the “satisfaction of getting a different plant working, “ and continues to be a valued light-fixer-upper volunteer.
Betty loves “seeing the people come though the Garden and talking to them.” She says they’re always so nice and appreciative. Betty also has another favorite part of working with Garden d’Lights: “They let me be the boss!” Betty is great at being a team leader as well as collaborating with her fellow volunteers. She, Helen, Tom, and Linda all worked together on the shooting stars in the Rock Garden. Brilliant work! Betty was also presented with the Trillium Award in 2021.
Bill and George are the “roping crew.” They hammer metal poles in the ground, cover them with PVC pipes with a hammerhead tube on the top, and thread the rope through. Visitors can see all their hard work as they walk through the Garden! Bill and George use different sized poles depending on what kind of bed it is; for example, they use short rods in the Rock Garden because the beds are raised. That way guests are still able to see the lights! The ropes come down in the first week of January. Bill says he’s volunteered here “since day one.” Like Carl, he’s been here for 27 years! He “loves gardens [and] watching people enjoy them.” George has been volunteering for six years, since 2016. The two do a fantastic job roping visitors in with their wonderful handiwork.
Helen, Tom and Linda are all part of the installment team for Garden d’Lights. They set up the lights and navigate the electrical outlets throughout the displays. Helen started in 2010. “I found it through the newspaper,” she says. For Tom, it’s his second year. His daughter was the one who pushed him to join the team. Tom says his favorite part of volunteering is “having fun with the crew.” Linda has been volunteering for three years, but she says, “I’ve come to see the lights since the 80 or 90s.” Linda says she loves watching the process, and the people she volunteers with. They have been working on the shooting stars light structure in the Rock Garden. Keep an eye out for their stellar work!
Tim and Miriam have been working together on the aquarium scene in the Shorts House. As installers, the two have put up jellyfish, tropical fish, flowing coral, and even an octopus in the window! The aquarium is a popular feature for visitors—especially the young ones. Tim got involved with Garden d’Lights through his work. Every year, employees at his workplace get three days to go out and volunteer. In 2019, Tim found out about the Garden. After learning about volunteering here, he “kept it up” and has been here for four years! His favorite part is being “creative with the lights.” Miriam has been volunteering for three years; after she stopped working, she needed something to fill her time. “I love gardening [and] meeting different people,” she says. The two get along swimmingly, and their display looks fin-tastic!
Candi has been at the Garden since 2004. She says she started with Garden d’Lights classes at the Garden. “They had classes to make flowers, and then [they] said, why don’t you install?” she says. Candi is in charge of electricity, and “knowing where the outlets are.” She says her favorite part is having fun with the other volunteers and the “mental challenge” she gets to work through during the process.
Chad is part of the transportation team. He gets all the lights, bits, and any other bobbles that the installers and volunteers need from storage. Chad has been volunteering for about 17 years, and before volunteering at the Garden, he flew helicopters in the Vietnam War. Before Chad volunteered, he would come to see the lights. When someone mentioned putting them together, Chad jumped in and has been a great help in the Garden d’Lights tradition. Chad says his biggest concern is, “does it look like a flower?” And, yes, they do! Check out the posters In the Aaron Education Center to see what plants the lights mimic in real life!
Paulette has a very important role in Garden d’Lights: Soup Supplier. She makes soup for the volunteers during the installment and the take down season. Paulette has been volunteering at the Garden for 15 years, but only started making soup eight years ago. She became the soup supplier after the previous director didn’t have the time. Paulette says she likes “provid[ing] warmth and nourishment” to the volunteers. Some of her soups include navy bean and ham, tomato and rice bisque, and tortilla soup. Not only are her contributions delicious, they are also very important!
Our thanks to Lucy Braginski for her contribution to our blog.