Lighting the way

Quite literally, it’s a million-dollar view. And you’ve got only a few days left to see it this year.

Reflections of the Season, which has brightened the skies on the west side of the Mississippi for the past few weeks, will wrap up this year’s spectacular display of hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights on Christmas Eve.

On Sunday and Monday, you can drive through the 7-acre site or step inside the West Baton Rouge Conference Center to visit with Santa and Trevor, the singing reindeer. It costs $1 per person. For another $2, you can take a wagon ride through the light displays. The center and wagon rides will be up and running from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, the site will be open for drive-through visits only ($1 per person) until 9 p.m.

For lots of families, like the Hulls, this field of lights is a fun way to spend an evening and take a Christmas snapshot or two in front of the brightly lit drummer boys, Santa’s sleigh or the woodpecker tapping into a pine tree.

“It’s just gorgeous out here,” said Michel Hull, 27, of Port Allen.

“I like all the different colors,” added her son, 7-year-old Rodney Hull Jr., as he spun around to take in the brightness for the first time.

This is the fifth year for the Christmas extravaganza put on by the West Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau at the conference center along Interstate 10 in Port Allen.

“We had the land, and I always think about doing something to bring people to this side of the river,” said Sharon Boudreaux-Stam, executive director of the bureau. “It’s not a scary thing to come across that bridge.”

The bureau’s employees work throughout the year to create the display. Here’s how:

By the numbers

$1 million: That how much Boudreaux-Stam says the bureau has invested in Reflections of the Season over the past five years.

300,000 lights: That’s a little deceptive because these lights are larger C7 bulbs, making them equivalent to 3 million of the mini-lights that hang outside most houses, said Tim Fitzpatrick, of Christmas Depot in Kenner, who creates large-scale light displays from Lafayette to Biloxi. “That’s a lot of candlepower in one bulb,” Fitzpatrick said. That power comes from modern LED lights, which use one-seventh the energy of an incandescent bulb, he said.

12,000 vehicles: Last year that’s how many cars and trucks, averaging two passengers each, drove through the attraction.

Set up: The bureau’s nine employees, with the assistance of three West Baton Rouge Parish inmates, along with employees of Christmas Deport work throughout November to set up the display in time to throw the switch on Dec. 4.

3,000 square feet: That’s the size of the warehouse the bureau recently built, the majority of which stores the light displays. Previously the equipment occupied five rental storage units.

Designing with ‘pop’

Each year, the most tech-savvy employees at Christmas Depot take digital photos of the empty acreage at the West Baton Rouge CVB. Using a computer designing program, they digitally place light displays around the property. A trade secret, Fitzpatrick said, the program helps create the optimal arrangement.

“She wants things to pop,” Fitzpatrick said of Boudreaux-Stam.

Because the Convention and Visitors Bureau puts on other festivals, the sidewalks and driveway used for Reflections contain dozens of high-voltage electrical outlets.

“She’s got enough power out there that she could probably plug in half of Baton Rouge,” Fitzpatrick said.

It never stops

For both Boudreaux-Stam and Fitzpatrick, the Christmas season never really ends. In January, the displays come down, everything is checked and stored. Then they start shopping for new lights.