Once a year, an already mystical, magical destination spot — Brookgreen Gardens — is made more so with the draping, hanging, dangling, and wrapping of a multitude of white lights as well as the glow of numerous candles. Nights of a Thousand Candles draws thousands to marvel each holiday season at the awe-inspiring wonder.
Located just south of Murrells Inlet near the coast of South Carolina, Brookgreen Gardens was founded by renowned businessman and philanthropist Archer Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, in 1931. It is situated on the Waccamaw Neck in Georgetown County between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean on four former rice plantations, taking its name from Brookgreen Plantation. The Huntingtons from Connecticut purchased the four plantations to open a garden showcasing Anna Huntington’s sculpture and to protect and conserve the plants and animals native to the area. The land for Brookgreen, comprised of 1,600 acres, became the first public sculpture garden in the United States. Today, the nonprofit organization collects, conserves, and exhibits figurative sculptures by American artists as well as plant specimens from the Lowcountry and native animal species.
Brookgreen Gardens has presented the Nights of a Thousand Candles annual holiday event since 1999. Almost 6,000 people attended the first year’s two night event. Each year, Nights of a Thousand Candles has grown with new exhibits, more lights, and even more candles and has been extended to 10 nights. This past year 53,000 guests visited to see the spectacular artistic creations. This year the Christmas display of lights begins Nov. 30.
According to Lauren Joseph, director of marketing at Brookgreen Gardens, the current display includes more than a million lights, 80 percent of which are LED. In addition, almost 5,000 hand-lit candles, luminaries, floating candles, and lanterns glow and shine throughout the gardens. In fact, the hand-lit candles make the event unique. Forty to 45 volunteers spend more than an hour each night lighting the candles; at the end of the night, the volunteers have to extinguish each candle.