Cold temperatures and the twinkle of lights are sure signs of the holidays. Each year thousands of people enjoy Airlie Gardens' holiday light display Enchanted Airlie. It does not open to the public until November 28, but NewsChannel 3 got the first public look at this year's edition Friday morning.
It may be a symbol of the holidays in the Southeastern North Carolina, but Enchanted Airlie starts to take shape when the weather is still hot. In august crews start stringing some six miles of lights and three miles of extension cords to illuminate Airlie Gardens with a quarter-million bulbs.
"It's a six-full-week schedules to get this up and a crew coming in at six and working through till dark," Airlie Gardens Director Jim McDaniel said.
While the lights may be the biggest draw Enchanted Airlie visitors are also wowed by a model train set in the garden and an even more elaborate set inside. Members of the Cape Fear Model Railroad Club have spent years building this display and start working just after Halloween to set it up at Airlie.
"There's just something about it that as soon as you walk in here, everybody says, 'Oh, I remember this train. I remember that accessory,'" Railroad Club member Barry Lantz said. "It just evokes such great memories for everybody."
McDaniel is a big fan of the trains. But his favorite part of Enchanted Airlie is the natural beauty of the poinsettias, pansies and other seasonal plants in the floral tent.
"It's a great place for people to take family portraits," McDaniel said.
And this year it'll be easier to get the whole family in. This week crews paved Airlie's driveway and parking lot including a permeable surface that lets water seep through and stop runoff. Paths around the gardens are now paved making for an easier walk and making Airlie wheelchair accessible. They are the latest changes to what has become a holiday tradition for many families in just its fourth year.
"The family's together," McDaniel said. "They're out having a good time. Kids are being kids, and the parents are just reminiscing about when they were kids."
Enchanted Airlie is open each Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting November 28. You can win tickets next week on Good Morning Carolina. For more information on times and tickets, visit www.airliegardens.org.