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Donation Allows McCrory Gardens to Add “Holiday Hill” Light Display

Garden Glow

Garden Glow continues to share the spirit of Christmas with the Brookings community. 

The 7th Annual Garden Glow event has grown even more after receiving a donation from a new Brookings resident to add the “Holiday Hill” light display. 

Chris Hussak, known as “Christmas Chris” to the McCrory Gardens staff, moved to Brookings last winter from Liverpool, New York, along with his wife, Christine. With years of light show experience already under his belt, Hussak felt inspired after walking through Garden Glow for the first time in 2020 and decided that he wanted to donate his time, experience and some of his light show equipment to this great event.

After Christmas 2020, Hussak reached out to Lisa Marotz, director of operations at McCrory Gardens, and was soon welcomed to the McCrory Gardens team.

“Upon receiving the first message from Chris, I felt a great deal of astonishment,” said Marotz. “How could Garden Glow, something we humbly do at McCrory Gardens for the enjoyment of others, cause someone from so far away to be just as in love with it as we are? In his first message, he wrote, “I think lights can bring so much joy and when done well, create so many great memories for kids and families and a community,” and this endeared us to Chris. We feel the very same way—his creativity, sense of humor, tenacity and humility has rooted him into the McCrory Gardens team.”

The Garden Glow event has grown significantly since it began in 2015, with more visitors attending each year to experience the nostalgia that is felt as one wanders through the majestic gardens while sipping hot chocolate.

Students at Garden Glow
A group of SDSU students visit Garden Glow at McCrory Gardens.

Knowing the impact made by light shows he has been a part of in the past, Hussak said, “It’s more than just lights. It’s become tradition.” 

Found at the end of the trail, this newest light display adds a unique feature to the event, as the lights dance to a variety of songs. Between the McCrory Gardens crew, Hussak, and his wife, Christine, this year’s Holiday Hill display took approximately 100 hours to build and features:

  • 20,000 lights
  • 100 channels programmed and choreographed to music
  • A variety of holiday, patriotic and upbeat music 

When asked what brings Hussak the most joy in giving this gift to the Brookings community, he said, “It’s probably knowing that it’s the same feeling that I got when I first walked through Garden Glow, and I’m hoping others are getting the same feeling, because it’s so immersive and magical. No matter what kind of day you had before, I think you’ll walk in here and you’ll forget it.”

Garden Glow is open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 6, excluding Dec. 24 and 25, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022. Tickets must be purchased in advance on the McCrory Gardens website.