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Newfields Hosting Fourth Annual Winterlights Event

Writer & Photographer / Michael Durr

The only thing better than the silent majesty of a winter’s morning is a holiday evening spent at the Winterlights event at Newfields. 2020 marks the fourth year for what has quickly become one of Indy’s favorite holiday traditions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be thinking that it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery, but fear not – this year’s Winterlights have undergone a few tweaks and you can keep your expectations high, as the Newfields team members have once again shown they know best when it comes to exterior illumination.


Jonathan Wright, deputy director for horticulture and natural resources, leads the charge for this year’s Winterlights event. Timed tickets, a mask mandate and a one-way flow are just a few of the steps being taken by Wright and his team to ensure the health and safety of all the attendees and staff members.

What exactly goes into making the Winterlights event such an incredible holiday spectacle? 

“The big joke among our staff is that we spend half the year putting the lights up and half the year taking the lights down,” Wright says. 

Some of the 100-year-old trees located throughout the historic garden are wrapped from the ground to the tips of the highest branches, with a single tree having as many as 60,000 individual lights illuminating it. The wrapping of those trees can start as early as August, and finishing touches are typically completed leading up until the final days before the start of the show.

With more than a million-and-a-half lights glowing throughout the property, it’s not surprising that this endeavor takes months of meticulous planning, preparation and bulb checking. Between staff members and volunteers, there are hundreds of people involved in putting the show together. 


“We couldn’t put on this show without the incredible team of dedicated garden volunteers who help throughout the year, creating some of the components, stringing lights and making ornaments,” Wright says.

This year, Wright and his team are excited to unveil some incredibly bright, robotic flood lights that will allow for some breathtaking illuminated backdrops as attendees stroll through the garden. 

“The show is going to be bigger and brighter than it ever has been, and about 25% of the show will be entirely new,” Wright says. 

Also new this year is Indianapolis-based Huckleberry Funk’s cover of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” which will be added to the Landscape of Light alongside last year’s “Nutcracker.” 

“The Landscape of Light is over 465 panels, and each one of those panels needs to be programmed to the eighth of a second to sync with the music,” Wright says. “It takes weeks and weeks of nothing but programming by our lighting designer, who has the incredible ability of translating the music visually.”

Abundant lights, a beverage selection and new features will put a smile on the faces of all who attend. Warm chocolate chip cookies and Just Pop In! popcorn will be available for purchase, along with Sun King Brewing’s Electric Reindeer ale, West Fork Whiskey Co.’s cider, as well as hot cocoa. It might be a bit nippier out this year with fewer indoor activities, so come prepared to be outside this season, and enjoy a safe and socially distanced moment of togetherness.


The show this year runs from November 21 through January 3, and is sure to be one of the highlights of the holiday season for anyone living in or around the Indianapolis area. Advanced tickets are required for all guests and members. 

Newfields is located at 4000 North Michigan Road in Indianapolis. For tickets or additional information, call 317-923-1331 or visit discovernewfields.org.

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