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A massive garden light display is one of the newest holiday traditions in St. John's

More than a hundred thousand LED lights are used in the light displays around a botanical garden in St. John's N.L. (CTV News) More than a hundred thousand LED lights are used in the light displays around a botanical garden in St. John's N.L. (CTV News)
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The Merry and Bright light festival has illuminated the botanical gardens in St. John's, N.L. for seven years, and it just keeps getting bigger.

The last time they checked, there were about 125,000 LED lights used in the display — but that was several years ago, and counting them all is not exactly an easy job.

"If we asked the staff who hang these to count them for us, or to measure out the length, they’d get pretty upset with us," Deborah Coombs, a marketing advisor for Memorial University's Botanical Garden, told CTV National News.

"It's higher than we can count."

The thousands upon thousands of lights are all jammed into a one-kilometre loop for the garden's annual Merry and Bright festival.

The festival is current on its seventh iteration, and it just keeps getting bigger — this year, running for 22 nights.

Last year, it saw about 27,000 visitors.

"It's just such a joyful event, and when people come, they come in droves," Coombs said.

It's become a go-to destination over the holiday season in St. John's — to bring your family, to bring a date or to pop the question.

"Last year we had six or seven wedding proposals, which is so exciting," Kim Shipp, the director of the botanical garden, told CTV National News. "Some of them call ahead to let us know, and others you hear the cheers and clapping from a distance."

It's a romantic place — especially the heart-shaped light installation which appears roughly halfway through the trail.

Preparing for this festival is nearly an all-year affair for staff. It's not long after the thousands of lights are disassembled and stored that planning starts again.

"Probably in June or July, we start having our meetings," Coombs said. "We sit with the map of the garden. We say what went well last year, what do we want to do this year?"

They also compare their festival with other garden light displays around the world.

"It seems to be a trend…and there's some beautiful lights right around the world."

Between hot chocolate and some live music, the festival is a hit. It's the biggest fundraiser of the year for the botanical garden, and helps finance a lot of the educational work the staff perform year-round.

Hobbs said the staff would love to build up the display even more — maybe use even more LED lights to make it longer — to help people spend more time outside.

"It's a really wonderful evening walk with your family, with your loved ones, with your best friend, to get outside and get some exercise and enjoy this season," she said. "Because we have winter in Newfoundland and we've got to learn to live with it and love it." 

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