STOCKBRIDGE — Just a few moments of calm and beauty, respite from the headlines, stress of the past year and ever-changing world.
That’s what we all crave right now.
Thankfully, Winterlights is coming.
The team at Naumkeag began planning the annual wintertime draw during the pandemic, while maintaining the Gilded Age mansion and estate, bequeathed to The Trustees of Reservations in 1958. The Trustees is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving iconic and natural places statewide.
Brian Cruey is director for The Trustees’ Southern Berkshires region, which includes Naumnkeag. He spoke with The Eagle recently about how this year’s Winterlights experience will be a bit different than years prior and to advise Winterlights fans not to dally, as tickets will sell out quickly after they go on sale to the general public at noon on Oct. 16. There will be a pre-sale for Trustees members (renew those memberships, Cruey says), and general admission tickets follow a few days later.
A feast for the eyes
For those who don’t know, Winterlights is a dazzling feast for the eyes, with more than 150,000 energy-efficient LEDs spread across the 48-acre historic gardens. Coming up with a pandemic plan for the event was a challenge but it will be worth it, says Cruey.
“We decided we would do it and make it work. We thought it was important to have a moment of normalcy,” says Cruey. “We’re really proud that we’ve found a way to welcome the community back to Naumkeag this year.”
Winterlights will run from Nov. 27 to Jan. 2, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., and won’t be open Christmas Eve or Day. Based on the rate of ticket sales for its Oct. 1 show, The Incredible Naumkeag Pumpkin Show, Cruey expects Winterlights to sell out.
“We’re going to mix it up, with some new elements but also favorites from years past,” says Cruey.
Attendees wanting to see such displays as Rainbow Road, Laser Light Forest and Blue Steps, will not be disappointed.
New safety protocols
What will be new are things such as masks and social-distancing requirements.
Naumkeag’s attendance plan will greatly decrease the number of visitors from the 1,500 to 1,800 who normally attend during pre-COVID times. State occupancy limits mean that only 50 people are allowed to congregate at the site at one time; 200 visitors will be allowed over the course of an evening.
As such, Cruey says staffing has been curtailed to get as many people through the door as possible.
“We’re operating at a reduced capacity, to allow more spots for more people,” says Cruey. “We’re asking people to be patient. All of these events are a group effort. It’s going to be up to everybody to help to get as many people as possible to see the show.”
Attendees will be asked to go through once and limit their stay to an hour.
Apply COVID safety practices
“We are expecting that people are going to be respectful and apply what they have learned about COVID safety,” notes Cruey.
This year, the event will run Tuesdays through Sundays, to expand opportunities for more groups of people to see the spectacle during the reduced-capacity event.
Just like some markets and other shopping outlets, the Winterlights displays now are designed to maintain one-way foot traffic. “It’s designed to keep people moving through; it’s going to be great,” says Cruey.
Winterlights visitors should also expect no shuttle service this year, another noticeable change from years past.
“All parking will be on-site at Naumkeag. With COVID, we can’t have a shuttle system,” notes Cruey.
Important to do, even if slimmed down
Cruey says it was important to host the event to boost spirits, even if Winterlights took a slightly different form. However, he says not to fret, as Naumkeag will offer its usual spread of holiday-themed delights, such as eggnog, gingerbread, hot cocoa, hot cider, as well as some sweets, popcorn and cider doughnuts.
“Naumkeag is a really special place, and I think we all appreciate it a little more this year,” says Cruey.
To get tickets for the reservation-only event, to learn more about the historic site or the Trustees, visit thetrustees.org/naumkeag.