Celebration in the Oaks is a New Orleans City Park fundraiser that provides 13% of the operating budget of the park each year. This magical festival of illuminated artwork has become a New Orleans holiday tradition, but wasn't always so. This is the history of Celebration in the Oaks:

  • early 1980s: Due to the expansion of the New Orleans Botanical Garden, a fundraiser was required to maintain growth of the Garden.

  • 1984: Paul Soniat, director of New Orleans Botanical Garden, develops a program called A Tribute to a Christmas Tree, where local artists would decorate trees which were displayed in a tent inside the Botanical Garden.

  • 1985: The New Orleans Federated Council of Garden Clubs takes over the task of decorating the trees and the event's name is changed to Holiday Celebration.

  • 1986: Paul Soniat invites Channel 4's Angela Hill to see the decorations, and she loved the project so much she volunteered to be the 1987 Chairperson. 

  • 1987: 1987 is generally considered the first year of the event, or the first real year. Thanks to Angela Hill, the event gained sponsorship and decorations expanded to other areas of the Park beyond the Botanical Garden. Thanks to volunteers, an electrical plan was put in place to light up the park, and traffic control was implemented to accommodate the newly established driving tour. The title of the event became Christmas in the Oaks.  

  • 1988: Expansion to include Storyland and the Carousel Gardens. 

  • 1991: Christmas in the Oaks becomes Celebration in the Oaks

  • 1992: Clarence Ecklemann develops one of the event's most attractive exhibits, the lighted miniature train.

  • 1995: The first Hanukkah exhibit was introduced.

  • 2005: Dilliards donates the huge float-like Mr. Bingle. Due to damage from Hurricane Katrina, the driving tour is suspended indefinitely. 

  • Since 2005, the Celebration in the Oaks has grown tremendously! From its humble beginning as a tent full of Christmas trees, it now displays nearly 600,000 lights, delighting over 165,000 people. New installations are added each year, including the Dripping Snow Tree in 2011, and the Pirate Ship, Treasure Island, and Flamingo Island in 2012. This is truly an event not to be missed!

Click here for more info on visiting our decorated City Park this holiday season.