It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. Or at least that’s what the jingles and festivities want us to believe.
We started Christmas light tours about 8 years ago, when we were looking for ways to expand our carriage offerings. It’s kind of been a love hate relationship with them since then.
Christmas Light tour are awesome. We travel in horse drawn carriage around Strathalbyn, viewing some of the lovely light displays that have been presented by the community. Travelling past slowly affords a greater viewing option than in a car and really enhances the festive feel. The excited squeals from the children, the happy exclamations of enjoyment from the adults.
With Christmas carols jingling and smiles and Christmas hats, it almost feels like we are dashing through the snow, in a horse open sleigh! Our light tours need no advertising, they sell out every year, usually by about October.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) the window for offering light tours is very small. We initially commenced on the first weekend of December, but over the years have found that the closer you get to Christmas, the more lights are put up. Also with school term, trying to work evenings during the last week of school was a sure way to send oneself insane.
Each year I have intentions of tweaking the route, but it is a very hard thing to know until starting, as I really have no idea where the Christmas lights will be. I mean we can have an idea based on previous years, but it really is such a fluctuating thing, that you can’t be sure who has moved house, who circumstances have changed, whether people intend to decorate.
This does cause a few problems for us, as like this year, there are some really lovely displays, but the distance between the lights can be quite dark and awkward, and by the end of the tour, it almost feels too long.
We have to avoid taking bookings on the Friday night of the Strathalbyn festivities, as usually this concludes with fireworks. Now, my horses are great, but I’m not going to put them in a position to fail, and I don’t want to be out when fireworks are being set off.
This effectively leaves us with approximately two weeks in which to offer lights tours. Of these two weeks, I need to leave a couple of nights free to allow for bad weather, should we need to reschedule, I need to ensure I don’t have the same horse out every night, and I need to accomodate for different sized groups.
This year, and for the last 8 years, I have taken one group per night as there isn’t a lot of time between dark, and too late- especially when there is little kids involved. We have been setting off at 8:45 and returning at approximately 10pm.
It has been suggested that I could get a second driver, and while, yes I could, this would complicate the horse rostering even more, would require extra trailers to get everything into town, and after paying an extra driver and helper (bearing in mind this is not a job you can do single handedly) there would be absolutely no profit left to even make it worth my while to do so.
Then let’s throw in the kid factor. I have mentioned in other blogs about the struggle I have with work life balance. In the lead up to Christmas, my own kids really get a rather raw deal. It does happen that I accidentally book too many jobs, or if we need to reschedule due to weather, it leaves the the icky nights as the ones I spend with my kids. Not to mention the lack of preparation time I have for my own Christmas things.
This year we were booked out by October. Since then I have turned down over 20 bookings for Christmas lights.. yes 20!!! I had 10 spots available to be booked.
Looking forward, I have been racking my brain to work out how I can make more spaces available. Next year we will be trialling 2 tours per night. One running from 8:30- 9:15, the other from 9:15-10pm.
This will mean double the number of places available. There will be a choice of a big carriage or small carriage as there is now. The first group will set off before it is dark- but this will make it a bit easier for those with small kids, who have found the 10pm conclusion a bit late. We will find a meeting point closer to the lights. The tourist info centre is great, but it does seem a long stretch before we get to the great lights.
I will announce on socials when bookings are open, and hopefully in the new year will get my head around an online booking platform, but my task right now is to get through one job at a time, until I get to unharness on Christmas Eve.
Thank you for your support throughout this year. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year, and I look forward to sharing horse drawn carriage opportunities with you in 2022.work