Celebration in the Oaks lights up New Orleans holiday season


Celebration in the Oaks is an annual event that runs from Nov. 25 through the end of the year in City Park. This season’s celebration marks 30 years of festivities that appeal to both locals and tourists alike.

Jordan Figueredo, Senior Staff Reporter

Cotton-headed ninny muggins rejoice, the holiday season is officially upon us. City Park’s annual holiday festival, Celebration in the Oaks, has begun now that everyone has eaten their weight in turkey and stuffing, moving on to peppermint bark and endless lines at shopping malls.

Running from Nov. 25 – Jan. 1, Celebration in the Oaks is a holiday tradition which families in the New Orleans area and tourists from across the country take part in to help spread the holiday cheer and take in one of the greatest light displays in the country.

Originally started as a fundraising event in the early 80’s to aid in the growth of the park, Celebration in the Oaks has become a staple in the New Orleans community. When Mary Rodgers, Chairperson of the Park’s Public Relations Committee, came up with the idea in 1984 as a fundraiser to spread the botanical garden, the idea proved too expensive. Director of New Orleans Botanical Garden Paul Soniat  began the “A Tribute to a Christmas Tree” program where local artists decorated Christmas trees to be displayed in the Botanical Garden.

Over the years, through changes in themes, locations and names to gain prominence and popularity, the public remained responsive. That all changed in 1990 when Christmas in the Oaks began providing audiocassettes with narration and a driving tour along with the lights, making the experience more interactive. That year, 350,000 people were in attendance.

The following holiday season, Christmas in the Oaks became the festival we all know and love, Celebration in the Oaks. This year’s celebration also marks the 30th anniversary of the festival.

What was once a fundraiser to expand the park has grown into a celebration of around 600,000 lights, and more than 165,000 visitors every year. The festival is dependent on volunteers to make it happen, as only six members are paid, and it takes eight months to set up. Every year there are hundreds of volunteers to ensure the festival goes on.

Celebration in the Oaks has continued to progress with the inclusion of carnival rides, food vendors, singing crocodiles, a train ride under the oaks, a giant lit-up unicorn, themes throughout the various sections of the park and holiday music playing throughout. With families taking photos, couples walking hand in hand, friends posing for pictures together and children running through the displays, Celebration in the Oaks brings the community together in this family friendly, after dark festival.

The festival at City Park opened Nov. 25 and runs through the end of the year. Admission is $9 per person and the carnival rides tickets, as well as the train ride through the lights, can be purchased once inside the park. Gates into the festival open at 6 p.m. and shut down at 10 p.m.

The 25-acre filled light display has become one of the most magical winter spectacles, and one spectacular holiday light festival. From train rides to Ferris wheels and the iconic New Orleans’ snowman Mr. Bingle, Celebration in the Oaks should not be missed.

Put on your most festive holiday clothes, pretend it’s cold outside and head to City Park for a festival that will not only give you an awesome Snapchat story or “candid” Instagram photo but also take your mind away from finals… and that’s a holiday miracle we can all agree on.

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