Green Bay Botanical Garden WPS Garden of Lights

By Janie Hodny, Morgan Andrews, Matt Seger, Hope Smith


The Green Bay Botanical Garden will return with a holiday favorite. The Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Garden of Lights started November 25th, and people can experience the bright lights and fun nights.

The experience includes…

  • 37 botanically themed light displays
  • 325,000 twinkling lights
  • Cookies & hot beverages
  • Shopping in the WPS Trellis Gift Shop
  • Viewing the Green Bay Area Model Railroaders Club display
  • Writing a letter to Santa
  • Taking a picture with Santa

Dates & Times: November 25 – 27; December 1 – 4, 8 – 11, 15 – 18, 22 – 23, & 26 – 30. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and the last entry is at 8:30 p.m. The lights are out at 9:00 p.m.

The most photographed display is the 60-foot-long caterpillar light display.

At the Green Bay Botanical Garden’s WPS light show, the 60-foot-long caterpillar is the most photographed display. Photo courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Garden\John Oates Photography.

The WPS Garden of Lights is a highly anticipated event every year. Tickets often sell fast, and nights are always packed. To put together this event, it takes lots of planning and execution. Dave Barkow, the Facilities & Maintenance Coordinator, stated that their team starts planning for WPS Garden of Lights “in December and January for the following year.”

Barkow mentioned that they started setting up “October 2nd with help from the Garden staff and five to ten volunteers.” When this tea is set up, you never know what to expect; weather can be difficult to predict and lead to delays. Barkow seemed happy with this year’s setup: “This year’s setting up was great with the weather in our favor and working with NWTC Power Distribution students and instructors.”

At the Green Bay Botanical Light show, a popular photo opportunity. Photo courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Garden. John Oates Photography

WPS Garden of Lights wouldn’t be able to happen without the help of their volunteers. Every year the Garden needs 25 volunteers to sign up for each night to help put on this night. Kate Martin, Green Bay Botanical Garden’s Volunteer Coordinator, mentioned how important volunteers are to run this highly anticipated event:

“Garden of Lights is a community holiday tradition, brightening the holidays and making a difference in the well-being of thousands of guests every year. It is also our biggest fundraiser of the year, and funds raised from it help the Garden fulfill its mission of connecting people with plants. Hundreds of volunteer shifts need to be filled to make the event possible. We highly value all our volunteers as they share their time with us and holiday joy with our guests.”

Martin spoke about the need for volunteers this WPS Garden of lights season, “We do need more volunteers in all areas! Those who sign up for a full four-hour shift will receive a complimentary Garden of Lights pass to be used any time, as well as a meal on us. Those who sign up for a two-hour shift may stroll the lights free of charge either before or after their shift and will also receive a hot beverage, cold beverage, or sugar cookie.”

WPS Garden of Lights display on the Schneider & South Schierl Terraces and Mabel Thome Fountain & Garden. Photo courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Garden. C Gleason

Susan Garot, the President & Chief Executive Officer of Green Bay, said, I am supporting the staff and volunteers that work the event that brings joy and happiness this time of year to 50,000 members of our community. I personally participate by working the same number of shifts required of all staff, and oftentimes will come in and volunteer when we are short.”

Susan Garot and the Garden’s Marketing & Communications team includes Aubrey Brennan, Director of Marketing & Communications; Rachel Mueller, Marketing & Communications Coordinator; and Rebecca Justinino, Graphic & Web Designer.

Susan Garot stated that the messaging “for the event focuses on “nature-themed light displays, holiday traditions, and spending time with family” as a way to connect and appeal to all cultures. We promote the event on a variety of channels, including billboards, social media, radio, and TV for mass appeal. We also solicit funds from corporate sponsors to provide tickets to our non-profit partners that serve marginalized groups in our community, which in the past has included groups such as COMSA, which serves our immigrant and refugee community, Casa ALBA, which serves our Latinx community, ASPIRO which serves people with disabilities, and many others.”

Group enjoying the Caterpillar Display at WPS Garden of Lights. Photo Courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Garden. John Oates Photography

WPS Garden of Lights has been around for 26 years, and every year is just as anticipated as the last. Susan spoke on the success of this event, “being outdoors in nature is healthy for our souls, and the Garden has created a botanically themed outdoor winter light exhibit that appeals to all senses and all people. While it runs over the holidays (between Thanksgiving & the end of the year), it is not specifically themed to any religious celebration.”

Many UWGB students travel off campus to walk through the WPS Garden of Light show. Sarah Hart, a junior at UW-Green Bay, has gone to the garden of lights every year for the past 16 years. She says, “I love how the Garden of Lights continues to grow and change every year. I think that it’s a great way for students to get outside in the winter and enjoy some of the holiday magic from their childhood with their friends. The lights are fun for every age, including college!”

Butterflies in Motion display at WPS Garden of Lights. Photo courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Garden. John Oates Photography

As students, we can find it hard to make time to celebrate the magic of the holidays. This season grab your roommates, friends, or loved ones to visit the magical Grene Bay Botanical Garden. Through WPS Garden of Lights, make lasting memories and get yourself into the holiday spirit!

Tickets need to be purchased in advance: Buy Tickets Here

Have any more questions? Visit Green Bay Botanical Garden’s WPS Garden of Lights page to learn more!

If you are interested in volunteering for WPS Garden of Lights, check out what shifts are open, and for more questions, reach out to our Volunteer Coordinator at or 920.491.3691 ext. 131.

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