Engineering Experiences at Thanksgiving Point

This article was published in the Winter 2019 issue

by Erica Brown, Chief Marketing Officer, Thanksgiving Point

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.
Steve Jobs

When Thanksgiving Point started designing a Christmas event to replace its popular Holiday Lights drive-through experience, the team was focused on developing something truly groundbreaking that delivered experiences with all five senses.

“In the beginning, we started with a 120-foot tree on top of an 80-foot hill,” said Tony Latimer who oversees the installation of Luminaria. “We were aiming for it to be the biggest in the world. The tree turned out to be the second biggest in the world but the Merry Mosaic made up for that.”

Merry Mosaic is the first section of Luminaria and is the first of its kind in the world. Developers program the show using proprietary technology each Luminaria season. Each of the 6,500 luminaries acts as a pixel to present a moving picture synced to holiday songs. It’s a fusion of art, technology, and Christmas unlike anything seen before.

“We wanted to deliver a multi-sensory experience. We wanted people walking to smell candy cane as they approached Candy Cane Lane, for instance,” said Austin Brown who oversees the event. “That took a lot of old-fashioned trial and error to get the right mix to create the perfect, nostalgic peppermint smell.”

Music adds another element to the mix. Each of the 26 themed “beats,” or sections, plays a carefully curated playlist to help you experience different aspects of the holidays. In some areas, the music is upbeat and modern with flashing, dancing lights. In another, the music will be more reverent and contemplative. It brings together the fun and merriment of the holidays with the sacred story of Christmas.

Throughout the planning and execution stages, Thanksgiving Point has relied on technology to optimize the guest experience. Partnered with Qualtrics, Luminaria guest feedback is gathered and measured every day to adjust the experience in real time. Due to this focus on the customer experience, there is a steady increase in Luminaria’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) each year. Last year’s NPS grew by 11.4 points from the opening to 69.7.

2019 promises to increase guest enthusiasm even more. Noted artist Jen Lewin is adding her world-famous interactive art piece Aqueous to the event. A description of this exciting edition from Jen Lewin Studios says this:

Aqueous in a playful landscape of meandering pathways of light. At night, Aqueous will flow and glow in full illuminated interactivity, engaging large groups in collaborative play. Inspired directly from looking at the evolution of symmetry in natural systems, Aqueous is one of the first pattern based physical sculptures of its size and scale. Composed of hundreds of interactive, stand alone, modular platforms derived directly from the Golden Ratio, Aqueous grows to create a landscape of flowing modular light, controlled not from a single computer, router, or graphic system, but instead from the raw code that can process human interaction on each of Aqueous’s many independent yet connected platforms.

This special exhibition will be on display at this year’s event only so be sure you don’t miss it. Luminaria promises to delight and inspire you this holiday season. We hope you’ll join us from November 22 - January 4 (closed Sundays) for something delightfully different every time.

Read the rest of the articles in the Winter 2019 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine


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