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April 24, 2014

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Photos: Twenty fun facts from Ethel M’s Holiday Cactus Garden on its 20th anniversary

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Steve Marcus

Displays are shown at Ethel M Chocolate Factory’s Botanical Cactus Garden on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. The 20th annual holiday lighting display will kick off with a ceremony next Tuesday.

Steve Bowdoin Prepares for Lighting Festival at Ethel M

Steve Bowdoin, caretaker of the Botanical Cactus Garden at Ethel M Chocolate Factory, takes a break from stringing lights at the garden Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. The 20th annual holiday lighting display will kick off with a ceremony next Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

Steve Bowdoin is apt to tour the Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden, which makes sense because for the past six years, he has been the man who has orchestrated its design and construction.

But Bowdoin does not make it known to his fellow visitors to that sprawling, illuminated desert patch at 2 Cactus Garden Drive in Henderson that he is who he is.

“I listen and keep my mouth shut,” he says. “They’ll say, ‘Wow, they should have put more lights up on that branch, or on that cactus, and I’ll hold my tongue.”

Why?

“Because maybe that branch would break,” he says. “That, or the cactus would fall over. We know our limits out here.”

The annual Holiday Cactus Garden lighting takes place Tuesday. The event opens at 5 p.m., the lighting is at 6:10, and the tour lasts until 8 p.m.

This is the 20th annual event, so we’re going with a list of 14 fun facts about the Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden.

No, make that 20. Twenty fun facts.

Let ’er rip:

20: Michael Grimm is singing at Tuesday’s event, and he’s the one who lit up Season 5 of “America’s Got Talent.”

19: Flamingo headliner George Wallace is providing his comedic stylings; he is a regular at these events.

18: The vocal group Mo5aic is singing at the event. They are headlining at LVH’s Shimmer Cabaret these days but were first spotlighted in Vegas by Wallace, who turned his show over to the guys for 15 minutes each night.

17: The garden is never the same year-to-year because as Bowdoin reminds, “It grows by nature. The lights never look the same year-to-year.”

16: This year, new LED lights are being used, purchased by LED Environmental Lights of San Diego and Four Seasons of Virginia. Why not just go to a Home Depot or a similar large-box store? “It’s cheaper this way," Bowdoin says.

15: The total number of staffers assigned to set up the display is four.

Click to enlarge photo

Displays are shown at Ethel M Chocolate Factory's Botanical Cactus Garden on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. The 20th annual holiday lighting display will kick off with a ceremony next Tuesday.

Click to enlarge photo

Displays are shown at Ethel M Chocolate Factory's Botanical Cactus Garden on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. The 20th annual holiday lighting display will kick off with a ceremony next Tuesday.

14: It takes six weeks, from start to finish, to place the lights.

13: It takes four weeks to take them down.

12: Bowdoin prefers taking them down. Does he lack holiday spirit? No. “It’s easier to take them down. It’s just rolling them up and putting them in boxes.

11: There are 12 miles of cables and chords used each year.

10: There are 11 sections of decorated patches along the path of the display, which covers a total of three acres.

9: There are 15,000 cubic yards of sand filing the entire Cactus Garden.

8: There are 400 tons of rock laid out in the garden.

7: There are 300 species of plants in the garden.

6: There are many choirs yearning to sing at the Cactus Garden during the holiday season. “We have choirs every day,” Bowdoin says. How many? Twenty-two, including the Schofield Middle School and Coronado High School choirs on Tuesday night.

5: The reddest nose of Tuesday night’s party will belong not to Rudolph, but to former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who will be on hand to toast the lighting.

4: About 100,000 visitors are expected this year, and locals should check out the Cactus Garden on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when it is not so crazy.

3: Cactus is edible, as Bowdoin says. He knows all about cactus because he studied agricultural business at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University). “My education helped me understand what I am looking at, and a lot of cultures use cactus in medicine and as a food source,” he says. “Countries in South America use the yucca root. Puerto Rico, too, uses it.”

2: There are 14 Christmas trees on the tour.

1: There are more than 500,000 lights on the tour, and what Bowdoin fears most can be summed up thusly: “Wind, rain and snow,” he says. “It’s snowed here before, and it is quite a sight.”

So is the artificial snow, and all that real Vegas lighting.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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