Winter at Chetola Resort is one of our favorite times of the year. Although winter winds and snow can impact our plans, the wonders of the season can also make it magical. The Festival of Lights, an annual tradition at Chetola Resort, originally began as a way to encourage visitors and locals to come experience winter holiday magic at the resort, even in the middle of winter.

When Kent Tarbutton, the proprietor of Chetola Resort, first arrived in the late 1990s, there were only four or five light displays around the grounds. Since then, additional displays have been added every year to the original collection and the current Festival of Lights now consists of over 30,000 lights for visitors, locals, and guests to enjoy.

Those 30,000 lights don’t just appear from Christmas magic- our grounds team begins working on the light displays in late September. It takes about 3 weeks to check and replace all the broken or dead bulbs, and an additional 6-8 weeks to get all the displays ready and set up. And, even when all the lights are set up, they must constantly be checked to ensure Christmas magic is at 100%.

This year’s new displays include a Nativity scene and dancing holiday lights with music. The Megatree, a part of the dancing lights display is the “ultimate creation” of Chetola Grounds Manager, Craig Lesowski. Craig’s intention in creating the Megatree was to create a new display that would allow families to create memories during their visit to Chetola.

The Megatree is exciting by itself, but what makes it extremely unique is that much of the display was created using recycled materials. The Megatree is made up of PVC pipes that have been glued together. The snowflakes near the tree were created using pieces of rebar that were welded together. And the hoops in front of the tree were created from an old cascading waterfall display that has been repurposed into accessories for the Megatree. The only new pieces of the Megatree are the lights themselves, the equipment to synchronize the lights, and the tomato cages which make up the baby trees in front of the Megatree. In total, this magnificent holiday light display is made up of 3,900 dancing lights with 2,200 just for the Megatree.

The dancing lights for the Megatree and surrounding accessories were programmed by Chetola’s IT Manager Mike Osborne to dance along to various Christmas songs. Many of the lights had to be connected to various circuits that allow them to actually “dance”. The work that goes into this enchanting Chetola tradition is endless, and we are grateful to every team member who helps to make this display memorable each year.

Looking ahead to next year, Craig promises a few new surprises, including more Megatrees made from recycled materials and a few other displays made of reused materials that we can’t quite share yet. You’ll just have to make Chetola’s Festival of Lights a winter tradition! We hope you have a wonderful winter and holiday season - we can’t wait to see you at the Festival of Lights!

Chetola Resort’s Festival of Lights is on display now through the end of Winterfest on Sunday, January 31, 2021. Enjoy a walk or drive around Chetola Lake to view stunning holiday lights, music, and more! Order a meal to go, or join us in Timberlake’s Restaurant for an unforgettable dining experience.