Twinkling lights, bustling miniature villages, forests of holiday trees, and...dragons!
The fantasy village of Blefuscu, inspired by Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and circled by an animated train, is just one of five whimsical villages around Wynn Las Vegas.
Whimsical miniature village, their architectural features hinting at Brussels, Rome, Paris, London, and Venice, lie in drifts of snow around Wynn Las Vegas. With their merry (and chilly!) silver, gold, and white color scheme, they’re like tiny cities that magically blew in overnight, landing with a flurry inside the vibrant floral atrium. Christmas trees—58 in all—shimmer with a quarter million ornaments and nearly as many lights. You could say that this winter wonderland did, in fact, appear overnight, laughs Wynn’s Director of Horticulture, Gary Cramer, although it took multiple nights to fully arrive.
“We start at midnight and try and get everything done by 7 am,” he says. A team of 25 people worked a full week to assemble the five fantasy villages alone, which feature a working Ferris wheel and carousel (replicas of floral sculptures at Wynn Palace in Cotai), a moving train, and windmills, and are surrounded by 1,600 square feet of artificial snow. Little horse-drawn carriages seem to clip-clop through the streets, and in one town, a lively ice sculpture competition is in progress. If these villages make you feel positively Brobdingnagian, that too is no accident.
The Year of the Rooster begins on January 28, 2017, but, says Thomas, the spectacular dragons come out every year for Chinese New Year.
“Each village is named after a town in Gulliver’s Travels, a favorite of Steve Wynn,” explains Roger Thomas, Executive Vice President of Design for Wynn Design & Development, who designed the villages, along with Creative Director Alex Woogmaster, using some of their favorite European cities as inspiration. A gilded scroll outside the town of Mildendo (the metropolis of the Lilliput empire) announces it as “A prosperous town of golden wish givers and friendly, giddy goblins.” The whirligigs of Waggywach are “powered by the warm breath of golden dragons in the valley below.”
And though “Project Deck the Halls” starts mobilizing more than a full year in advance and takes a small army of designers, installers, project managers, and horticulture specialists to accomplish, it is a decorating effort as personal to Steve Wynn as ornamenting his own home—because, in fact, it is. “The Wynns live here and entertain their personal friends and family here,” Thomas says. “Mrs. Wynn in particular chose the white, gold, and silver palette for the decorations,” whose purpose is the same as that of Wynn’s year-round décor: to create a sense of joy and wonder.
Even the plants are special: Among the 5,000 white and golden poinsettias in the Wynn atrium, you’ll find the snow-white leaves of the brand-new Princettia Max, the first true white poinsettia hybrid. “There’s always a plan here,” says Maurice Wooden, President of Wynn and Encore, who has worked with Steve Wynn for nearly three decades. “We start early and work through the year on setting up an experience for our guests that is bright and energetic.” It’s a Wynn tradition that actually precedes Wynn Las Vegas, though it has been refined here.
The entrance to The Buffet at Wynn is always a major focal point during the holidays. Past these holiday trees is another botanical wonderland, in the restaurant’s sky-lit atrium.
“In the Mirage days, we’d change out the plants for the holidays,” he says. “And from the Bellagio Conservatory, we learned that people really want to come in to experience the holiday. People have come to know that at Wynn, we celebrate from the inside,” which means minimal decorations on the street (if you consider 1 million white lights on the pine trees outside to be “minimal”) and a fantasyland within. The holidays get only more fabulous as the season goes on: Wynn’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration counts down to midnight with individual cakes for all 2,000 VIP guests and with headline entertainers including Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, and this year Lionel Richie.
But the holidays are equally special for Wynn as a community, Wooden says, since each year more than 100 volunteers go into schools in underserved communities around the city, with Mr. and Mrs. Claus bringing a gift for every single child—an effort supported by hundreds of employees behind the scenes, wrapping as many as 6,000 individual gifts and loading cookies and candies that will bring the city’s kids some Wynn-style holiday cheer. “It’s more than a tradition,” Wooden says, “it’s our responsibility. And it’s a great time for us to reflect on the past 11 months.”
At the same time that Thomas was overseeing the monumental task of readying Wynn Palace for its spectacular opening in Cotai, he was journeying north of Hong Kong on the weekends to check in with Clive Miners, of Rich Creations International Hong Kong, who was painstakingly building the villages and all their tiny movable parts of metal, fiberglass, plastic, and resin; covering them in gold and silver leaf; and illuminating each with its own internal LED lighting. (You can also see Miners’s work in Wazuzu, in the form of the 28-foot-long dragon covered in 90,000 Swarovski crystals that presides over the restaurant.) The villages arrived from Hong Kong in November in 52 crates—a festive puzzle that was twinkling by Thanksgiving.
But the season is far from over. Three nine-foot-tall rooster sculptures are being gilded as the year ends, ready to take their place under four 45-foot hanging dragons in Wynn and Encore, among 7,000 bright orange, red, and yellow begonias, mums, and calandiva, to usher in the Chinese New Year. And though it would be difficult to get any member of the Wynn community to commit to a favorite season, the pure delight of a holiday wonderland of Swiftian villages, roosters, and dragons is lost on no one, Wooden says. “We look forward to the next year even before the decorations come down. We’d never give up our opportunity to show people how we celebrate the holiday season.”