‘WinterFest on the Wisconsin’ new holiday event coming to Nauticus


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — With the canceling of Nauticus’ Dickens’ Christmas Towne due to the pandemic, a new holiday tradition is about to hit Hampton Roads next month — “WinterFest on the Wisconsin.”

The Battleship Wisconsin decks will be transformed into a holiday experience for six-weeks beginning November 21 at 5:30 p.m. and lasting until New Year’s Eve. Included in the decorations will be over 250,000-holiday lights illuminating the entire ship, a 25-foot-tall Christmas tree, and animatronic elves.

“This six-week waterfront spectacular will be produced on the USS Wisconsin, and families will have a chance to explore the most extensive light display ever created aboard a historic battleship.  Lighted sailboat parades on the Elizabeth River, live entertainment, and holiday vignettes below deck are all part of the experience,” said Nauticus officials in a statement released Thursday.

Winterfest on the Wisconsin will feature a holiday light trail along the decks of the battleship with special tree lighting ceremonies each night.

The largest guns ever built by the US Navy got a holiday makeover! WinterFest on the Wisconsin is a six-week experience aboard the historic Battleship Wisconsin, and features a massive walk-through light trail, holiday vignettes, and music. (Photo courtesy: Nauticus)

A projection system will cast holiday images across the ship’s hull, and each Saturday evening Santa Claus will arrive by boat after the lighted sailboat parade.

Chesapeake-based Blue Steel Lighting Design is tasked with designing and installing over 250,000 outdoor holiday lights and projections as part of Nauticus’ new experience. The team says the project is the most ambitious one to date for the company as the ship is the last and largest battleship built by the United States Navy. 

“This ship is enormous. We’ve been planning since July, but it’s hard to get a sense of the scale until you’re on board and setting the light forms in place. We’re so grateful for the amazing opportunity though. It’s been a really tough year for the event community,” said Jeremy Kilgore, owner of Blue Steel Lighting Design. 

WinterFest on the Wisconsin will feature a walk-through light trail that includes a forest of 100 trees on the ship’s bow, giant candy structures, drums, musical notes, and presents. The Battleship Wisconsin’s guns – the largest cannons built by the U.S. Navy – will be transformed into six massive candy canes.

“This is a huge, complex project,” said Stephen E. Kirkland, Nauticus’ executive director. “My challenge to the lighting team was to think of this ship as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.  It has to be that iconic.”

Blue Steel Lighting Design will be onboard each day and night leading to the grand illumination.

Nauticus staff say that the festivities were created as a way to celebrate the Hampton Roads community and also pay tribute to the men and women who continue to keep our country safe, especially during the pandemic.

“Perhaps most notably, the Battleship Wisconsin is a symbol of this country’s resilience and resolve,” said Nauticus executive director, Stephen E. Kirkland. “That makes it the perfect venue upon which to celebrate the season after a tremendously challenging year.”

The event is produced by Nauticus and presented by GEICO Military.

“GEICO Military is proud to partner with Nauticus and present Winterfest on the Wisconsin in celebration of our military and veteran communities,” said Brian Schlicht, representing GEICO’s Military Assistance Team. “Our collective goal is to bring some joy and create some lasting family memories.”

For more information regarding Winterfest on the Wisconsin, visit nauticus.org. Watch the video here.

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