Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Lights of Lobethal Festival

Image courtesy of www.lightsoflobethal.com.au/ 
It’s official. Christmas is just around the corner. I know this because the ‘lights of Lobethal’ have been switched on, and that means like it or not, Christmas is coming. Let me explain.

For over 60 years, the community of the Adelaide hills town of Lobethal have been decorating their homes with lighting displays in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This tradition has become so popular that – according to whoever is responsible for keeping tabs on these sorts of things – the event has evolved into “…the largest Community Christmas Light Display in the Southern Hemisphere.”

And who am I to argue with that claim. The event began in the early 1950s, when local business owners used hand painted light bulbs to decorate their shops and businesses. Slowly, home owners began to do the same thing, and before you could finish singing The Twelve Days of Christmas, a new tradition had been born. As word spread about the lights, visitors began travelling from other hills towns, and eventually Adelaide and further afield to see the increasingly elaborate displays.

By the turn of the century, the event had changed from what was essentially a local community event to the Lights of Lobethal Festival, which now attracts over 250,000 visitors from all parts of Australia, as well as from overseas. Today, over 700 homes and businesses are lit up, at their own expense, to “…spread the true meaning and joy of Christmas.”

Of course, if a quarter of a million people were to spend just $10 each during their visit on food and drinks, and the odd trinket or two, that would no doubt be more than welcomed by the town burghers as well.

The Festival now includes a number of other events such as a Living Nativity (performing twice each night!), a Christmas Tree Festival (featuring trees decorated by local groups, school children and individuals), and a Christmas Pageant (December 23rd). The opening night (December 11), featured Christmas Carols, an official opening ceremony, and of course, the obligatory fireworks display.

Lights of Lobethal route map. Click to enlarge.
As you can imagine, given the large numbers of people now driving through the town each night, the event is heavily policed, and indeed a Dry Zone is in place (and enforced), for the duration of the Festival. An official route map (above) helps channel visitors and traffic in an orderly way through the town, which, as you can see from the map is not exactly large, so pack some extra patience with you if you go. By the way, to discourage visitors from driving through the town at all hours of the night, the light displays are officially turned off at 11pm each night.

If you don’t want to join the queue of cars yourself, Buses-R-Us operates three tours each night (at 8:30pm; 9:30pm; and 10:30pm) during the festival, at a cost of $12 per person. You can join these tours once you reach Lobethal, or you could join the more expensive full Lights of Lobethal tour from Adelaide (Adults $30; Concession $27; Family $90). You will find more information on the official Lights of Lobethal site.

Alternatively, beat the rush and arrive early in the evening. You could have a meal in Lobethal, then check out the Centennial Hall Market where a variety of art and craft and local produce can be bought, and also visit the Country Fire Service Op Shop on the off chance that a bargain is waiting to be discovered amongst the bric-a-brac there.

Lights of Lobethal runs from Sunday, December 11th until the 31st of December 2011.

More Information:Lights of Lobethal official website...

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