There are still a few days left to catch Las Noches de Las Luminarias at the Phoenix Botanical Garden.
Most nights through Dec. 31, volunteers will light 8,000 luminaries throughout the 140-acre garden, casting a soft glow on paths that weave in and around some 50,000 spiky plant displays.
This year’s event is even more magical with the addition of Chihuly in the Garden, a series of colorful glass art displays by artist Dale Chihuly. The sculptures mimic the shapes and colors of cacti in the garden and most are entwined with existing displays.
Long, lean red glass flutes stand amongst prickly pear and saguaro. In another corner of the garden, a towering collection of wiggly white and cranberry-colored glass mimics a blooming yucca.
As visitors stroll amongst the living and sculpted displays, music trails through the air. Various musical acts are set up around the garden, from a vibrant world rhythms band, carolers, a Native American flute player, mariachi band and a handbell ensemble. Hot chocolate, cider and wine are sold throughout from coffee carts.
While most nights are packed with bundled up families and friends, the garden feels intimate because of the number of paths and courtyards to get lost on.
Volunteers posted throughout the garden can answer questions and most will gladly describe how they light 8,000 luminaries in just an hour.
One volunteer let us in on the secret: lighters are attached to long poles so volunteers don’t have to bend down. Working in pairs, a volunteer on each side of the path, they go from bag to bag with their lighters, each assigned to a section.
Then at the end of the night, lighters are exchanged for turkey basters. Volunteers use them to squeeze out a puff of air and extinguish each candle.
The event started years ago with only three nights of lighting. The 3,500 tickets for each night quickly sold out, leading to crowded parking lots and trails, according to the garden’s Web site.
In 2003, Luminaria expanded to 12 nights, with ticket sales limited to 2,100 each night. Over the last decade, organizers continued to lower capacity to make the event more enjoyable and parking easier. With the addition of 240 new parking spaces this summer, capacity was increased 13 percent to 270 tickets per night.
The cost to attend is $30 for adults and $12.50 for children ages 3-12. The luminaria event runs Dec. 20-23 and Dec. 26-31.
Even if you can’t make it, Chihuly in the Garden is on display through May 18.
See a slideshow of the garden show and hear a recording of a flute player on the Roundup’s Web site — payson.com.