Everything You Want to Know about Las Noches de las Luminarias
by John Sallot, Director of Marketing
For the past three years the Garden has been gathering feedback about its ticketed events. Shortly after one takes place, a survey link is sent to online ticket buyers. The data gathered helps us make adjustments and improvements. Las Noches de las Luminarias, our largest event, generates the greatest amount of feedback, with several questions that come up each year. To give our members the information they need, we are taking this opportunity to answer your most frequently asked questions:
1) How does the Garden decide when to cancel because of rain?
Rain is good for our plants and great for our wildflower bloom, but it is the worst thing that can happen on a night of Luminaria. The decision to cancel because of rain is one of the most difficult to make. We watch weather.com, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Website, and frantically dial Royal Norman at KTVK, Channel 3, looking for the best information available. We make the decision to cancel or move forward at 2 p.m. If we do cancel, we begin a series of steps to let everyone know including sending an email to all of the online ticket buyers, posting the information on our Website and in social media, alerting the news media, and contacting volunteers, staff, the caterer, and musicians.
If it is raining at the Garden at 2 p.m., then we must cancel. Even if it stops raining prior to the start of the event, there simply isn’t enough time to replace the 8,000 wet luminarias and candles, get the catering going, and recall all of the volunteers, staff, and musicians. The more agonizing decision is made if, at 2 p.m., rain is imminent or expected to start prior to 9 p.m., and we must decide whether or not to cancel. We have had occasions when we have canceled because of predicted rain and it turns out to be a perfectly delightful night. On the other extreme, we occasionally make the call to move forward with the event and then it rains. When we do cancel, you may always opt to exchange your tickets for another open night of Luminaria or take a refund.
2) Sometimes there isn’t enough parking. What’s your policy on capacity?
If you have been attending Luminaria for a long time, you probably remember parking at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium parking lot and riding a bus to the Garden. Back then, Luminaria was only three nights and we sold 3,500 tickets per night. The trails were a bit more crowded then and you spent extra time getting to and from the Garden. In 2003, Luminaria expanded to 12 nights and we lowered the nightly capacity to 2,100 tickets. The expanded parking lot that opened in 2002 allowed us to park everyone at the Garden, ensuring an inclusive event. Since then, we have learned that on Friday nights people come from work rather than home and bring two cars, while on other nights people tend to carpool. So for the last several years capacity on Friday nights has been reduced to 1,800 tickets. Over the last decade, we have actually lowered overall capacity to make the event more enjoyable and parking easier. With the addition of 240 new parking spaces this summer, we will increase capacity by about 13%, or 270 tickets per night.
3) How do you set pricing and why do you sometimes discount tickets?
Las Noches de las Luminarias is the Garden’s single largest fundraising event and is the result of tireless effort on the part of volunteers and staff. The funds raised support our horticulture, conservation, research, and education programs. Currently, Luminaria member tickets are $20 and general public tickets are $25. If you consider that an adult admission to the Garden is $18, members pay only an extra $2 and the general public an extra $7 for the experience – which we think is a pretty good deal.
Some years, if there is a night of Luminaria that is not selling well, we have offered discounted “rush” tickets the morning of the event. We never know when this will happen and we do it only as necessary. We understand the frustration this may cause you if you planned ahead and bought your tickets at full price. We do have a belief that “The plane must fly full,” which means that we need to use every opportunity to sell any remaining tickets.
We are making a significant change with pricing and discounts this year based on your feedback. Now, much like an airline, the earlier you buy your tickets the less expensive they will be. Member tickets will go on sale Monday, September 10 and if you buy your tickets by October 31, you will save $5 on each adult ticket – taking the price from $20 to $15. On November 1, the ticket price will go back up to $20. If you are not a member, then now is the time for you to join and save!
If we find ourselves needing to sell discounted “rush” tickets for a night of Luminaria, we will publicize the offer through email and social media with a $5 discount on general public tickets. This will take the price from $25 down to $20, but not lower than the regular member price. Please keep in mind that we may still offer last minute discounted tickets outside of this price structure if necessary.
4) Why does it seem that there are fewer entertainment options?
Prior to 2003, when we hosted only three nights of Luminaria, we were able to book the same musical acts for each night. Many of the acts could not expand when Luminaria went to 20 plus nights and would be available for only part of the event. We had to book other acts to fill in. If you look at an invitation from that era, it does look as though there were a lot more entertainment options, but if you count the locations and the nights, you will see 10 exciting musical acts offered. In 2007, when we celebrated 30 years of Luminaria, we went back to booking only entertainment that was available every night of the event to ensure consistency and quality. Sadly, some of the old favorites could not return. More recently, your feedback helped us decide to eliminate one of the entertainment areas because the music spilled over into other areas.
One of the great things about a garden is that it is always growing and changing. Whether it is a public garden or your backyard, there is always something new. Las Noches de las Luminarias is a Valley tradition and each year we work to bring you the best holiday event in town!