There’s no more magical place in the city during the holidays than the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department employees have transformed the entire conservatory into a winter wonderland.
This year’s showcase theme is “Snow Days,” focusing on things kids enjoy when snow causes school to close. Portraying those activities are a cadre of snowpeople (snowmen and snowwomen made by Tom Hegge, conservatory building maintenance supervisor) skating on a simulated pond, throwing snowballs, sledding, making snow angels, building forts and enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. The showcase continues through Jan. 7.
According to conservatory manager Chad Shaw, visitors can stroll along paths through the evergreen trees and shrubs, cross a bridge over the pond to the huge poinsettia tree featuring 250 of the multicolored jingle bell variety plants. Some 2,000 poinsettias are on display throughout the conservatory and can be purchased in the gift shop. After three weeks they will be replaced by another 2,000, all of which are grown in the Lawton Park greenhouse.
In addition, nine donated cut evergreens are part of the scene. Shaw pointed out that the Parks Department does not cut trees from the parks, but puts out word to the community to find persons interested in donating a tree. “We cut them down, bring them in, trim them up, erect them in the Showcase Room and flock them with artificial snow for a touch of winter realism,” Shaw said.
The tropical and arid rooms also are decorated for the holidays with oversized ornaments and special lighting. New this year in the arid section are a dozen unique 18-inch wreaths made of succulent plants.
On Nov. 22, the Botanical Conservatory will host its holiday kick-off party from 5 to 9 p.m. Visitors can enjoy hot chocolate and a cookie, meet Mrs. Claus and get a free professional-quality photo with Santa. The conservatory will be alive with music provided by the Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s Charlie Brown Christmas Jazz Trio, and dancers will perform throughout the evening. Regular admission fees are $5 for adults, $3 for children 3-17 and children 2 and younger are free. The conservatory will validate parking tickets for the Civic Center Parking Garage.
Santa and his reindeer will be available for photos Saturdays, Dec.2, 9 and 16, from noon-4 p.m.
Dec. 7 from 5-8 p.m. will be Dollar Night. Visitors pay just a dollar to tour the three exhibit rooms and enjoy a concert from 6 to 7 p.m. by local folk/Americana band: elle/the Remnant. The Suzuki Strings will present a holiday concert Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m.
The patio now includes a couple fire pits. Visitors can purchase a s’more kit in the gift shop and enjoy roasting marshmallows over the open fire and making s’mores with chocolate and graham crackers. A unique light show will be going on each evening on the terrace garden.
Visitors on Saturday, Nov. 25, between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. will get an opportunity to learn more about snowflakes, and even make one to take home.