Bar Car Nights, a popular offering during the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show extravaganza, dazzles with mystery, glamor, and conviviality. You can bring your partner, your date, your fiancee, your spouse, your friends. You can make your experience an intimate couple’s night out, go solo, or share the camaraderie with pals and newly met acquaintances. Adult tricks reign, as Garden staff serve alcoholic beverages.
How can you not enjoy leisurely sauntering through the amazing background of lush, vibrant horticultural splendor, crazy-cool trains, and a world of New York in miniature? As you sip drinks and chat with friends, the ambience soothes. What a divergence from the raucous mundane parties of the season. As the vibe mellows, you feel an enhanced appreciation for this uniquely innovative experience. Most absolutely, the glittering displays, eye-popping in their holiday finery of brilliant and colorful lights, emblemize the best of being a New Yorker.
The evening I went, I had nearly canceled because bitterly cold, below-normal temperatures had just slammed the New York City area. However, I finally decided to go. And I prepared myself. Fearful of treacherous, clawing winds, I dressed with coat, outer shawl, scarves, a hat, and heavy-duty mittens. I also checked into the Hudson Garden Grill for an exceptional warming snack.
By the time I left the Garden, the freeze had slipped out of my mind. Though the temperature may have dropped, the charged atmosphere of the Garden’s theatrical production sparked my imagination. My body core had warmed. Perhaps the gorgeous botanicals overhanging the variety of delightful trains charmed me out of fearing the cold’s brutality. The fantastic genius of iconic replicas fashioned from the most unbelievable use of plant elements stuns. The combination of enchantments would massage even the frigid heart and body of Scrooge. No “Bah humbugs!” here.
Also, philosophical and emotional thoughts about the show cradle my mind. New Yorkers will be oppressed by the vengeful new federal tax “reforms,” our Blue state being blown over by frigid winds emanating from the Republican White House. Thus, the Garden’s uplifting presentation of New York State and New York City boldly cheers. The show centers around all the striking beauties of the Hudson River Valley and the city, present and past. Demolished buildings rise up once more in historic verisimilitude. Ridiculous mansions of the gilded age, too extravagant to maintain, torn down to save money, stir in the greenery.
Especially with this show, we experience New York’s audacity and pride. From it we gain the temerity to laud the greatness of New York. Bring on the vengeful, counter-productive tax policies. Watch how the genius of New York, extant in its officials, citizens, and leaders, swamps hatred. Note how New York presents its own victorious countermand, outwitting dull, trudging, Republican bloat.
Clearly, Bar Car Night’s magic emblazons hope and joy upon the political horizon. But it has been accomplishing this for 26 years at the New York Botanical Garden. Each year the show’s evolution adds new meaning along with the expanses of track, variety of cars, and renovation of displays. Interestingly, as Applied Imagination perfects its entertainment, the substance of the production grandly mirrors the social and historic culture of our state and the currency of our times. The A.P. engineers create and lovingly collaborate to stay fresh and state-of-the-art.
Certainly, these two qualities have been mainstays of the show founded by Paul Busse. As the originator and visionary, he conceived of employing all biodegradable and sustainable components for the building constructions. His daughter Laura Busse Dolan, who has accepted the baton of leadership this year, carries on her father’s vision. She discussed with me how her Dad started small and evolved the show over the years, slowly hiring artisans who shared his passion for natural materials.
Additionally, he inspired their creativity and ingenuity to experiment with a variety of different components to effect a gable, a brick, a finial. Laura assured me that her Dad deplored the use of plastic and any non-water-soluble liquids or colors. All substances and parts advertise sustainability. This remains another fascination of the show’s organic, forward-thinking brilliance.
Speaking of brilliance, another thrill of Bar Car Nights for me is noting the differences between the daytime and nighttime at the NYBG. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory by day reveals a fountain of sunlight streaming through the latticework and Victorian greenhouse galleries. The effusion of light showcases the delicacy of the replicas, the intricacy of their botanical components.
One can clearly identify how the team used the magnolia seed pods, the cinnamon sticks, the bamboo strips, the eucalyptus leaves, the acorn caps, the pine cones, the barley seeds and pepper flakes to fabricate replicas of extant mansions and iconic structures. How does the team use a twig or bark to simulate Senator William Clarke’s Gilded Age mansion? In the sunlight you can move up close and inspect how the team envisioned their creation and executed it. Truly, their intimacy, knowledge, and experience with their materials have refined their gifts. Creatively they top themselves each year as they place the buildings among gorgeous flowering shrubs, orchids, palms, and water displays.
At night this year, the crown jewels of New York City, i.e. its Empire State Building and the Midtown Manhattan scene, are spectacularly lit up.
As you make your way through the show you end in the Palms of the World Gallery. The difference between the Holiday Train Show by day and Bar Car Nights reins you in. Additionally, it is no coincidence the Applied Imagination team added a replica of St. Bartholomew and created new miniatures for this scene. In this Manhattan scene I felt the happiness of being a New Yorker, despite the nihilistic political treatment the state is getting. A special thanks to the Applied Imagination team, Laura Busse Dolan, and the New York Botanical Garden for being there to uplift us.
If you can get there to see the show by day or by night, especially if you hail from New York the pride of your city and the state should wash over you. If you are a tourist, New Yorkers welcome you, always. Indeed, the Garden may become a peaceful home away from home. Surely, I feel that way.
Don’t miss Bar Car Nights! Two nights remain if tickets haven’t sold out: 6 January and 13 January from 7-10:30 pm.
The Holiday Train Show ends on 15 January. For all the intriguing programming at the Garden, including the Evergreen Express and Family Events, visit the Garden website.