Celebration in the Oaks has been a tradition that visitors have brought their children to for 33 years. The tradition started in New Orleans in 1987, however, since City Park first opened Celebration in the Oaks, many changes have occurred within the attraction.
For the first time, there are over 1 million lights being used in Celebration in the Oaks this year. The park was able to reach that milestone after four years of using LED lights, which save much more energy than incandescents.
“The dripping snow trees take the same amount of energy as a toaster,” the director of public relations for the park Amanda Frentz said.
The LED lights are eco-friendly and cause little-to-no harm to the environment. Many LEDs have a rated life of up to 50,000 hours and last 50 times longer than an incandescent light bulb. LED bulbs also have an expected life span of up to 11 years.
The reuseable lights are recycled and are stored in a warehouse. “It’s not open to the public, but it’s near the greenhouse, near [highway] 610,’’ Frentz said. All of the materials needed to create the attractions in the park are kept there. Frentz estimates that the warehouse is about half the size of a football field.
“Way back when I was a child, Entergy used to come out with the bucket trucks and do a lot of the setup,” Park Director of Recreational Services Waymon Morris said. “Now we just have our internal teams do it.” Even though the operations have shifted to City Park staff, Entergy is still a sponsor for Celebration in the Oaks.
Everything in the park is custom made—City Park’s internal teams and workers help with creation of the custom made objects. This year the only attraction that was outsourced were the “fountains of joy,” which, compared to elaborate displays like pirate ships and pink elephants, were a little underwhelming. Everything else was handmade from workers inside the park.
Celebration in the Oaks also makes sure to have a distinct Louisiana flare. Tourists can enjoy lit up crawfish hanging from trees, an oyster that opens and closes with a lit up pearl, or Santa’s sleigh being pulled by alligators instead of reindeer. The idea of a Cajun Christmas might be a novelty for visitors, but a New Orleans native would likely just see this as normal.
Celebration in the Oaks has had six names since it first opened. At first, it was called Christmas in the Oaks—many people still call it that simply because the name stuck. But now that the event is called Celebration in the Oaks, it is more inclusive for all religions. Towards the front of the park, there is a huge yellow and golden menorah to represent the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.
Blended in with the seasonal light displays are some of City Park’s more permanent attractions. Over many years, renovations have been made to upgrade the park’s appearance and safety. This year the park built a new, 2.5 story-high slide in Storyland called Jack and the Beanstalk.
While Jack and the Beanstalk was an addition, some things in the park were subtracted to increase safety.
“The Dragon slide has been here for a really long time,” Frentz said. “However, it was four-and-a-half feet taller and longer and the velocity of a child coming off of a 1950’s slide was a little less safe than a 21st century kind of slide.” So the park decided to give the dragon’s neck a bit of a chop.”
The park has spent $8,000 on renovations in the past year and Celebration in the Oaks generates 13 percent of the park’s income. With a constant need for new renovations, the staff is hoping that more income will be generated from this year’s Celebration in the Oaks.
Each year, City Park does an incredible job of putting on a production that not only delights and surprises tourists but also New Orleans natives. There is always something to excite all of your senses. Celebration in the Oaks is an experience that you and your family will never forget.