MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) – Millions of lights and candles light up the Grand Strand drawing holiday crowds from in and out of town attend the three-week event known to be one of South Carolina’s most significant holiday attractions.

“It’s become a holiday tradition for so many families,” Lauren Joseph, Director of Marketing at Brookgreen Gardens said.

For the 20th year, Brookgreen Gardens lights up for a well known tradition, Nights of a Thousand Candles.

“It gets you in the Christmas spirit and is absolutely beautiful and gets better every year and it is because I’m with my sister and law,” Pam Singletary said.

Nearly 3,000 candles light walking paths surrounding the 80-foot living Christmas tree standing two feet taller than New York City’s big Rockefeller attraction.

“We see people back here every year, we hear from people all over the country who come here in December just to come to Nights of a Thousand Candles,” Joseph said.

The famous tree is the center of many family traditions, standing for decades. With age comes delicacy, and Brookgreen Garden staff tell News13 one change involved in setting up this year’s display was the challenge to reduce the traditional 130,000 lights on the tree to 40,000 eliminating, heaviness hung on an old tree.

Thanks to modern lighting, the tree shines shines brighter than any other year.

“It started it off fantastic with the spirit the music, the lights, everyone’s so excited,” Amanda Morton, a Brookgreen Gardens visitor said.

The six months of preparation is paid off for hundreds of staff and volunteers seeing cheering crowds as large as 53,000 people over the 11-day event prioritize this event no matter the distance.

“I actually did a zip code study of where folks were coming from and they were from all over South Carolina, a lot of folks from North Carolina, but we actually had guests from every state in the union and six foreign countries,” Joseph said.

Large crowds are expected every night bringing an influx of traffic and business to the area.

A record number came for the opening show and staff tells me this Saturday night is sold out as they plan for more than 7,000 visitors.