What happened when 4000 people are caught in the garden blackout

Festival of Lights, Boat Parade in Boothbay Harbor. Photograph by Teddi-Jann Covell.








Shorter days require bright nights

Last December, I coaxed my husband into witnessing the eye-popping, fun-filled weekend of the “Festival of Lights” in Boothbay Harbor. This included an art show opening reception at Boothbay Region Art Foundation’s “Art in the Square” annual holiday exhibit, in which I was participating. Festival events also featured an illuminated boat parade viewed at the public landing and the Coastal Botanical Gardens’ “Gardens Aglow” show. I was pumped. It was thrilling to watch the creativity of marine decorations lighting the bay and sparkling off the water followed by a walk in the spectacularly lit gardens. I couldn’t wait to return this year.

This fall, when my sister inquired about viewing the gardens, I accepted with pleasure. Last Sunday, December 3rd, we traveled to Boothbay Harbor, excited to see this year’s version of “Garden’s Aglow.” My sister loves the Boothbay area as her daughter, my god-daughter got married at Spruce Point Inn in 2014. But my sister had never seen the garden light show. This year it was advertised that there were even more lights, 500,000, up from 2016’s mere 350,000 LED bulbs. Like last year, I am participating in the BRAF “Art in the Square” sale. Therefore, I needed to continue downtown to drop off four paintings in the show. All artwork is 12″ X 12″ and all pieces are priced at $100 to promote art gift giving  and to promote the Boothbay Region Art Foundation’s scholarship fundraiser. Lovely paintings, mixed media and even wooden compositions can be obtained for a bargain. It is worth a trip to Boothbay Harbor just to purchase art from respected Maine artists for a worthy cause even without the light festival-furthering the trend to stay and buy local.

“After the Harvest and Before the Glow: Coastal Botanical Gardens”, 12″ x 12″, oil on canvas, available at Boothbay Region Art Foundation. Painting by Teddi-Jann Covell













Electrifying light show turned into a parade of headlights

Anyone who has driven to Boothbay Harbor could remark, “You can’t get there from here” as Bert & I comedians used to quip. And it is true. From the Bangor/Orono area where I live, it’s I-95 to Richmond, Rt. 197 to Desden on Rt. 127. At Desden Mills take Rt. 27, turn left on to Rt. 1 in Wiscassett. That’s when we encountered 4th of July, bumper to bumper traffic. We suspected everyone was heading to the same place. After passing the thankfully closed “Red’s Eats,” (or we would have been stopped for take-out customers crossing Route 1), we turned right, back on to Rt. 27. After eight miles of unfamiliar twisting Route 27, it began to get more tricky. This route has been under construction all summer. They are building a rotary at the intersection by the Boothbay Country Club entrance and the turn towards the Botanical Gardens. Frankly, the rotary is a confusing maze of both small street signs and large orange construction signs surrounding this new “traffic pattern.” Proceeding through the rotary, drivers must turn right and take narrow streets to Corey Lane and will come to a “Y” intersection of Barter’s Island Rd. and finally a left turn into Botanical Gardens Dr. I have been there before. Following a stream of cars at dusk was like a mambo line. To make matters worse, there is construction at the Botanical Gardens. But at least now the property has paved their extremely narrow, windy roads and paved four new parking lots.

Entering the garden of cars

Finally, slowly making our way past the “under construction new visitor’s center” and several orange-flashlight-wielding traffic personnel, we parked in lot “C.” Each car that pulled in around us emptied their strollers, children and elderly onto the black-top. We had tickets to the 4:00 PM “show” and so did 4000 other people. The parking areas were not lighted, but it was beyond dusk. We moved toward the distant orange wands so that we could safely pass through the hundreds of other cars heading towards us. No bridge or walkway safely separates pedestrians heading toward the entrance of the garden from the vehicles. Once we crossed the main road, trams took folks to the entrance. Just as we sat down on seats directly behind the driver, all the lights beyond the parking lot flicked off. My sister and I heard the walkie-talkie announce to employees that there was a sudden power outage. The tram kept inching towards the visitors’ center. Because I had printed out our tickets, we were directed into a line to enter the gardens. We walked into darkness.

I stepped into the partially lit visitor’s center. Suddenly, all the lights went out inside too. My sister, over heard another employee report “an accident on the highway sheering two telephone poles.” No announcement was made by the Botanical Garden crew. People still spilled through the entrance. No one was panicking because no one knew what was happening. But we both knew it was bad and we  whispered, “We’re outta here, NOW!”  What a quagmire! Trams couldn’t move because people were still coming in. One tram wouldn’t start. The few folks that wanted to leave were told, “You cannot leave because it is too dangerous.” Some employees even told drivers not to back out of their parking spots but to stay in their cars.

Move with purpose not panic

We braved the darkness, got to our car, and entered in the snakelike mambo line out.  When we reached the Barter’s Island Rd., we finally saw a policeman with blue lights motioning for everyone to turn left away from Boothbay. We surmised the “highway” accident occurred on Barter’s Island Rd. As we crept along, the few houses we passed were blackened. No street lights. Only red tail lights blazing a path ahead of us.Then, we saw a huge yellow glow through the bare tree branches. Wow, this must be the problem, the accident. Suddenly, a siren. And I couldn’t believe it. A fire truck somehow managed to squeak by from the opposite direction on the narrow, driveway-like street. Twisting our way, we began to move along; the glow was not the accident but the “super-moon” silently sliding up into the night sky. This stunning sight was our only light show, and the moon’s aura followed us the entire way home, safe and sound.

Moon over the Maine coast. Photo by Teddi-Jann Covell

















Teddi Covell

About Teddi Covell

Teddi-Jann was elected as President of the Bangor Art Society May 2015. In this capacity she complied member’s drawings to form a Bangor Art Society Coloring Book, organized, two members’ art shows and one Paint-out with a wet paint auction, October 2015 & 2016.