Gift of Lights adds sparkle to holidays

Green dominates all colors at the ninth annual Gift of Lights holiday display in Sunset Park. Organizers are two years into a five-year plan to take it all-LED.

“We thought it was environmentally the right thing to do,” says Brenda Meehan, co-owner of event coordinator Meehan and Associates.

About 2 million of the 8 million bulbs lining the two-mile tour of pretend dinosaurs, reindeer and snowmen are now diodes, which burn 90 percent less electricity than incandescents.

LEDs can be found all over the 400 displays — but especially on 25 new ones, including a 100-foot-long dragon, an animated reindeer band and Santa on his cell phone. (Oops! He’s using it while driving his sleigh!)

Meehan would not specify the savings, but said that the fuel bill for the rented generators is one-third smaller than before the changeover.

LED also greatly reduces breakage, because the bulbs are plastic instead of glass. And there’s a surprise Meehan says she didn’t count on before auditioning the technology last year.

“The event just looks better,” she says, calling the blues, greens and reds “really more intense.”

The whites, however, seem to have a case of the blues.

“They have a bit of a bluish tinge,” says Meehan, who admits to cheating Mother Earth by throwing in incandescent whites, “just to pop a penguin or two.”

The display opened last week and will run through Jan. 3 at Sunset Park, 2601 E. Sunset Road.

But this is only the beginning of the holiday fun in Southern Nevada. Here are a few other major events in store.

* The Holiday Cactus Garden at ethel’s chocolate factory and Botanical Cactus Garden is under way through Jan. 1 (closed Christmas Day). In addition to 500,000 lights in the 3-acre garden, the free event will feature Santa and entertainment by professionals and school choirs. The attraction is open sundown-10 p.m. at 2 Cactus Garden Drive in Henderson (800-680-0150).

* The floating ice rink is back at The Village at Lake Las Vegas. Skaters can lace up their skates for frozen fun 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and noon-9 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through Feb. 15. General admission is $15, $12 for children ages 12 and younger. Several activities are planned Saturday, starting with a polar bear plunge for charity at noon and also including fireworks at 5 p.m. and a tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. at 30 Strada Di Villaggio in Henderson (564-4766).

* The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village kicks off with a tree lighting at 6 p.m. Saturday, featuring light displays, carousel and train rides, entertainment and other festive activities. The attraction is open 5:30-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 2 at 6300 W. Oakey Blvd. General admission is $9.50, $7.50 for children ages 3-11. There are special nights for families and seniors, and anyone who brings in gently used items for the organization’s thrift store will get $2 off admission on Thursday nights (225-9627).

* Mystic Falls Park at Sam’s Town turns into a winter wonderland Nov. 26, with 50 light-strewn trees and a 30-foot Christmas tree. The attraction will feature three new polar bear scenes and a river scene with fishing polar bears. Lights and water shows will accompany traditional holiday music. Free 15-minute animated shows will be presented at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 (456-7777).

* The Cultural Corridor in downtown Las Vegas will kick off its holiday celebration Dec. 5, with activities planned at the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park, Reed Whipple Cultural Center, Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum and Las Vegas Library. The corridor, which also includes Cashman Center and the Neon Museum, will have a variety of exhibits, performances and special events scheduled throughout December (www.culturalcorridor

* Tickets are on sale for rides on the Santa Train in Boulder City Dec. 5-6 and 12-13. The half-hour rides will include a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a toy train exhibit, Santa’s North Pole mailbox and sleigh. Food and cocoa will be sold. Train tickets are $2. The train will depart at the top of each hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Nevada State Railroad Museum Depot, 600 Yucca St. (486-5006).

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