NEW ORLEANS - There is still plenty of Halloween candy hanging around, but the staff at City Park is gearing up for a big finish to 2013 as the holidays approach. Staff and volunteers are putting thousands of lights and displays in place for Celebration in the Oaks.
A drill buzzes away; wrenches tighten bolts and hammering filters in from around the park. It sounds like average construction, but Wendy Blanchard describes the results as phenomenal. Her granddaughter thinks its real pretty. Miles of lights, metal, glass, plastic and wires become mythical creatures with the flip of a switch.
"You see a lot of activity right now, but really it's a 365 day a year enterprise," said John Hopper, Chief Development Officer at City Park.
Park staff and volunteers are painstakingly erecting new displays like Sea-la-bration.
"They are beautiful, large gems," Hopper said. "They are glittery - all the creatures from the sea all lit up."
Old favorites are going up, as well, like the Cajun Night Before Christmas. Everyone is working to make sure the park is ready to shine. From the Saints to the holidays to the City Park carousel, all of the things people love come together at Celebration in the Oaks.
"I think one of the biggest things is it's part of a family tradition," Hopper said. "Parents remember when they were brought out here by their parents, and grandparents are bringing their grandchildren"
"We went the first time kind of by accident," Blanchard said. "We just drove by and saw all the lights and stuff and decided to stop and just didn't leave. We just stayed the whole night. It was great."
After just one visit, Blanchard, a Pensacola transplant, decided to create a new family tradition for her granddaughter Jazae'ah Harris.
"Personally, I loved the whole thing," she said. "There's not a part that's really better than the other."
"I like the park at Christmas time, because the other time I went to the park I saw dinosaurs for Halloween," said Jazae'ah.
"Our craftsmen are very, very talented," Hopper said. "They take a lot of pride in their work, and they are thrilled when they come out every year and see little kids smile."
You can be a part of the magic early. The adult preview party is Friday, Nov. 22, when you can be among the first to take the grand tour of lights, ride the train and enjoy music. Food and drinks will be provided by restaurants throughout the area.