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Saturday spectacles in Butchart Gardens.

Your head tilts back farther as showers of shooting stars explode higher and higher. Clusters of light burst and multiply into still more elaborate configurations.

Sure, you've seen fireworks before, but this show, at Butchart Gardens north of Victoria, B.C., combines fire, water, light, poetry, and music in a dazzling array. Weekly programs begin on Saturday, July 6, and continue through August 31.

Designed by the garden and the renowned French firm of Ruggieri, masters of pyrotechnics for nearly 250 years--from the wedding of Louis XV's daughter in 1739 to the 1976 Bicentennial in Washington, D.C.--each season's presentation is fresh and original. Shows began here in 1978.

Butchart's show draws on the centuries-old European tradition of fireworks as public entertainment in pleasure gardens. Where most major North American fireworks are presented in urban environments for large crowds, at Butchart the backdrop is entirely natural. Instead of constantly focusing attention overhead, Butchart also uses ground-level fireworks to illuminate the woodsy surroundings.

Music is vital--a fast-paced blend of heroic film scores, marches, and sound effects known as whistling bees, hissing silver jets, and the like.

Arrive early, picnic on the grounds

Show times vary with each performance--from 10 on July 6 to 8:30 on August 31--as the sun sets earlier. Costs given are rounded off in U.S. dollars.

Admission to the gardens (open daily 9 A.M. to 11 P.M.) is $4.85 for adults, $2.60 for ages 13 through 17, $1 for ages 5 through 12. There's no extra fee to watch the fireworks.

But parking spaces fill quickly on Saturdays, often as early as 7 or 8 P.M. Arrive early, take a stroll through the 35-acre gardens, and enjoy an evening picnic on the grounds.

A buffet dinner ($12.40) is served at the historic Dining Room Restaurant; seatings--at 5, 6:30, and 8--are first come, first served, or you can reserve a table after 4 at the door. Light meals are available at the Greenhouse Restaurant cafeteria and at two snack bars, all open during garden hours.

Or go by bus

Three coach companies offer evening tours that include a narrated 45-minute ride to the gardens, admission, and return. Departure from the Empress Hotel is about 7, returning around 11. Fare is $13.50, $6.75 for children 5 through 11. Buy tickets in front of the Empress.

One coach operator also offers a dinner tour that leaves at 4:45, stops at a restaurant, reaches Butchart for the fireworks, and returns by 11. Tickets are $25, $15 for ages 5 through 11. Call Gray Line Victoria at (604) 388-5248.

Butchart's other summer programs

Other free entertainment includes the "Just for Fun" musical review at the open-air stage, week-nights at 8:45, Mondays through Saturdays, the Butchart Gardeners offer more lighthearted music in the early evening. Puppet shows are scheduled Sundays at 3:30 and 4:30.
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Title Annotation:Victoria, British Columbia
Date:Jul 1, 1985
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