Winery light display set to stay
SCHUYLER COUNTY--The grounds of Castel Grisch Winery no longer contain just vines, they now include thousands of lights creating hundreds of figures that include lions, panda bears, reindeer, Venus flytraps, dinosaurs and more. Unveiled in December, Castel Grisch owner Daniel Lai said instead of being a seasonal event, the light show will now be a year-round fixture at the winery.
"The idea is for the light show to be available year-round with small breaks to set up seasonal shows," Lai said. "This show now took two months of working seven days a week to get set up, but it really has turned out amazing."
Taking about 10 minutes to complete by car, the light show entrance starts with a traditional Chinese lantern design before the breadth of the totality of the light show becomes apparent. Instead of one grand unifying theme, the aesthetic of the lights rapidly shifts, taking patrons from a traditional Chinese lantern entrance to a massive display of almost abstract lights, to scenes of wildlife and then Christmas.
"I think for a long time Watkins Glen has benefited from the different cultural (aspects) brought to the region by immigrants," Lai stated. "I think this light show has the ability to display and combine aspects of not only Chinese culture, but (local culture) as well."
As the light show ends riders are then treated to a long row of animatronic dinosaurs, some wrapped in festive attire, that Lai said he included to ensure there was something for everyone.
"Make sure you roll down the windows, they make noise," Lai said.
The biggest factor going into the light show was the opportunity to diversify the economic viability of the winery, something Lai said has become increasingly important over the last year.
"I have partnered with some very good people from New York City to create a separate company under the Castel Grisch Winery (umbrella) to operate the light show," Lai mentioned.
Through his partners, Lai said he will have consistent access to different light structures allowing him to change the design of the light show by the season. This, through the company Lai created to manage the light show, allows the ability to operate the light show year-round instead of it being a temporary event.
"The response (from customers) has been very good so far," Lai added. "We have a lot of tourists that come to Watkins Glen, whether it is for the race track, or the lake or the state park and this gives them something else to do while they are here."
The light show has also shown indications that the increase in traffic is driving up sales in the tasting room as well.
"I think a lot of people are looking for something to do out of their house that is still safe," Lai said.
The light show, as it is currently constructed, seems well positioned to take advantage of this new reality as patrons never have to leave their car and all attendees at the entrance wear masks.
The cost per car is $20, full details of cost structure and when the light show is open can be found on the Castel Grisch website at https://castelgrisch.com or by calling 607-535-9614.