My time with Jerry Bowlen, executive director of horticulture at the Bellagio went something like this: “Please Jerry, lemme hang just one ornament, just one.” NO. “I promise, if you let me hang one ornament, I won’t touch anything else.” NO. Then he stopped me from being squished by a crane hauling a colossal rocking horse. Despite Jerry’s lack of sleep and my double shot of espresso, I’d say we got along smashingly. Check out the before and after shots of the Bellagio Conservatory holiday transformation:
Everybody knows Jerry. He’s the most popular guy in the building, and not just because of his beaming personality. His team is responsible for the legendary design and execution of the Bellagio Conservatory each season, and they are friggin’ rockstars. After lots of sucking up and a little bit of begging, he was cool enough to toss me a hard hat and let me tag along during the holiday installation. Let me be the first to tell you, this has got to be one of the most elaborate holiday displays anywhere, let alone Vegas. The conservatory was buzzing with action and the team worked like a well-oiled machine.
It’s all hands on deck when they tear down the previous display and install the next. About 75 people work around the clock for a week to make the transition happen. The holiday display is the toughest for two reasons: It’s an insane amount of work for a display that lasts less than 30 days and probably because they have to wrestle the 42-foot tree through the hotel doors and hallways. It’s also one of the most popular displays throughout the year so Jerry shrugs off the complexity and says they’ll do whatever it takes to make it an unforgettable experience for guests.
The design’s centerpiece is, but of course, a 42-foot White Fir tree from Mt. Lassen, in Northern California. Each year, Jerry and his team go to the alpine forests near Mt. Shasta to find the star of the show. Then they haul all 6,800 pounds of it back to Vegas. It took 64 hours to decorate the Christmas tree with more than 2,500 ornaments and 7,000 lights. Be happy you’re not paying the electric bill. The tree is flanked by wrapped gifts, 14-foot-tall twirling toy soldiers and 10-foot-long stockings that are suspended from the ceiling.
But what you really want to know is the fast facts, I get it:
Total flowers used: 34,000
- 28,000 Poinsettias
- 2,000 Azaleas
- 2,000 Cyclamen
- 2,000 Ottowa mums
Total plants and shrubs: 750
Total trees on display: 25
White Fir from Mt. Lassen, California
Height: 42 feet
Diameter: 18 feet
Weight: 6,800 pounds
Number of lights: 7,000
Number of ornaments: 2,500
Mother Polar Bear: 12,000 carnations
Polar Bear Cubs: 5,000 carnations each
Rocking Horse: 9 feet tall and 10 feet wide
Snow Globes: 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide
Snow Tunnel: 14 feet tall and 12 feet wide
Stockings: 10 feet tall, 5 feet wide and 3 feet deep
Illuminated Moon: 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide
Toy Soldiers: 14 feet tall
Jack-in-the-Box: 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide
Snowflakes: 10, 8 and 6 feet
Ornaments: 10 feet in diameter
Jerry and I are now best buds, even if he doesn’t know it. I made him pinky swear he’d take me through the floral warehouses in the spring so stay tuned for more Bellagio behind-the-scenes action. Hope your season is merry and bright.