On Nov. 29, the Longleaf Botanical Gardens is opening up for the first time with the Doors! exhibition and decorating competition, in which participants put their own holiday spin on this special passage to be judged and voted on by the public.
Volunteer coordinator Jean Ann Oglesby knew she didn’t want to introduce the public to the space with your typical Christmas tree decorating contest.
“The more we were talking about opening the door to the Botanical Garden, the more we kept saying opening the door to an opportunity,” Oglesby said.
That’s exactly what she and Lindie Brown, development director for the Anniston Museum, as well as several other volunteers and staff members have focused on as a way to educate Annistonians on the potential of the future grounds, which used to belong to the Lenlock Community Center. Since acquiring the space from the City of Anniston, the committee has spent three years on renovations and now feels it’s time to invite everyone in to see what’s been accomplished.
The exhibition will be part of the inaugural Christmas In The Gardens walking tour in the Museum Complex, where visitors can hear live music, tour the Christmas Critters live animal building and channel “A Christmas Story” by trying their hand at a makeshift BB gun range. Kids can make ornaments and write letters to Santa, and the wintry wonderland filled with elves and gingerbread men will provide many family photo opportunities.
The committee was able to acquire several doors from the recently closed Wells Fargo building, in addition to help from Remodeler’s Outlet and Home Depot. The Rotary Club of Anniston has installed the first official garden in the space, and is working toward securing funds for a children’s garden and an edible garden.
“Part of this, with the Doors! exhibit, is to help people become aware of what the gardens are and what they could look like,” Oglesby said, adding that visitors can also volunteer. “You can say ‘Hey, I helped build this,’ or ‘I helped plant this.’ It will give everybody a part of ownership in our Longleaf Botanical Gardens. Right here in your own neighborhood, in your backyard, without having to spend a whole lot of money on gas … you’re able to go contribute and be a part of your own community.”
Visitors can vote for their favorite display by giving a $1 “doornation.” The results will be tallied and announced on Dec. 14. Winners will receive a prize of $300, $150 or $75.
Christmas In The Gardens takes place Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 6-7 and 13-14 from 5-8 p.m. The cost of admission is $10 per carload of visitors.