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Oakhurst Becomes Winter Wonderland

In nineteen years, it has grown from a small, but magical, holiday event held in the gardens at Oakhurst to a much-anticipated event spread throughout Minnetrista’s campus. Planning for the first Enchanted Gardens: A Luminaria Walk at Oakhurst Gardens began right after the George A. Ball home and Oakhurst Gardens opened to the public in May 1995. In a brainstorming session, the idea of lining the garden paths with luminarias was mentioned, and the ideas snowballed from there. Speaking of snow, that first event had it—not too much, just a light dusting.

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Since Oakhurst was developed as an environmental center, all decorations were to be either natural or recycled. Starting in late summer, hundreds of plastic gallon milk jugs were collected, washed, and cut open to accommodate a candle. Oakhurst program officer Amy Kress said “We had a lot of people donate things from their gardens and we saved a lot ourselves, including collecting roadside weeds.” These natural materials were used to decorate trees outside and in the Oakhurst home. Carolers from area schools entertained, food was served in the Education Center, and children made crafts in the Discovery Cabin.

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What I remember most from that first year are the luminarias and the weather—it was cold, bone-chilling cold all three nights of the event. Luckily, that didn’t deter a hardy group of visitors, including Edmund F. and Virginia Ball. They bundled up, walked the paths, drank hot cider, and participated in all of the activities. I encountered them as they left Discovery Cabin, and they proudly showed me the pine cone bird feeders they had made.

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Each year since, there has been more at what is now known as Enchanted Luminaria at Minnetrista—more luminarias, more decorations, more entertainment, and, especially, more visitors. Can we top last year’s mark of 10,000 visitors? We’ll soon see.