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Winter garden

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Truly a sight to behold, more than 2,400 man-hours went into crafting the Bellagio’s elaborate holiday display.
Photo: Ryan McAfee

His name is Andy Garcia, but not that Andy Garcia. For our purposes we’ll call him Andres Garcia, as that is what is inked on his business card and how he answers the phone. Andres Garcia is from El Salvador, the 13th out of 15 children. His father demanded he get a degree in accounting, so he did – and subsequently embarked on a career in horticulture.

Ask this Andy Garcia, holder of a degree in accounting, for a statistic or mention to him a number of any sort, and he winces.

A Very Bellagio Christmas

“I hate numbers,” said Garcia, who today is the assistant director of horticulture at Bellagio, the man who is in charge of all that grows around in and around the grounds of the billion-dollar resort. “This is my passion. This is the job most like farming, which I love.”

Thus, Garcia is in charge of the annual Conservatory & Botanical Gardens winter holiday display. A 45-foot tree looms over the characteristically stunning design, which incorporates reindeer made of whole pecans, a family of carnation-crafted snow people, a 21-foot-tall wreath, and four soldiers that dwarf Yao Ming.

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Bellagio botanical gardens

Oh, and sitting off to the side is a 7-foot-tall rocking horse. At least Yao can look that in the eye.

More than 2,400 man-hours, with staffs of a dozen working around-the-clock in 12-hour shifts, are needed to bring the display together. Along with the Christmas exhibit, the Bellagio changes out the display for Chinese New Year (Jan. 11-Feb. 28), spring (March 8-May 16), summer (May 24-Sept. 12) and fall (Sept. 20-Nov. 29). The first display was a memorable burgundy-and-gold design effect created by Martha Stewart’s minions.

Last week, on the first morning of construction, Garcia watched as the first two of three mirrored gift boxes were set into place by the use of a crane, a hoist and several employees making sure the giant design affects did not slip and, possibly, topple. If so, Christmas would be ruined. But Garcia has yet to see that happen in his 12 years at the hotel.

“This is a great challenge, but I am not going to be the Grinch,” Garcia said, laughing. “Everything will be in place and it will be wonderful.” And that’s a wrap.

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