Reborn Celebration of Lights has bounced back bigger

Last year’s Celebration of Lights in Centennial Park. Submitted Photo

Cathy Dobson 

A massive dose of community spirit that revived the flagging Celebration of Lights last year is still working its magic.

Every one of the 35 displays has been adopted by a group, family, business or individual, says chairman Bill Suisham. In fact, there’s a waiting list of people who want to adopt one.

Finding community members to adopt the light displays and provide both sweat equity and cash to repair and install them was a new strategy last year.

In fact, it was a last ditch effort to save the holiday tradition from folding. Volunteer help had waned after 32 years and virtually no donations were coming in.

But after the board announced the festival in Centennial Park would be cancelled, local business people, schools, service clubs and volunteers stepped up.

Not only was the Celebration saved, a new generation was suddenly motivated to keep it going and improve it.

“This year, we’ve got displays out that haven’t been seen in years because we didn’t have the money before to fix them,” said vice chair Cathie Blake.

The committee is especially excited that the big archway is back after several years in disrepair. It crosses Front Street and acts as an elaborate entranceway to the light displays.

Goodwill Industries, with the help of several business partners, raised more than $10,000 to repair the 72-foot archway that was apparently damaged by a snowplow.

Its metal frame was also rusted by road salt after a deep freeze made it impossible to take down, said Suisham.

“The archway used to suck up a lot of power and was very expensive to light,” added Blake. “Now 15 amps light the whole thing. It’s going up with new LED lights and looks brand new,” she said.

The Celebration will also cover more parkland this winter now that the remediation of Centennial is complete.

And an expanded opening ceremonies are moving to a Saturday so more people can enjoy them. Everyone is invited to the park at 4 p.m. on Nov. 25 for children’s activities, music and crafts under a big tent.

Horse and wagon rides are planned with Santa arriving at 7 p.m. and the lights switched on at 7:15 p.m. Fireworks start at 7:45 p.m.

“The opening will have a big wow factor,” said Blake.  “We really want a great production for Canada’s 150th.”

Elementary and high schools are urged to get involved, helping to set up displays and make decorations for the trees.

The revived community support last year was astonishing, Suisham said. Enough money poured in to finance the 2016 Celebration and this year’s. But organizers are concerned.

“I can see the momentum is already slipping,” said Suisham.  “We’ve got some of the donors again but not all.”

To help, the committee is holding a fundraiser featuring The Fidgets improv team on Nov. 16.

Volunteers are still needed. If you can help, email the committee at info@celebrationoflights.com

The Celebration runs Nov. 25 – Jan. 1. Lights on daily, dusk till 11 p.m.

OTHER DATES:

Nov. 4 – 9 a.m. Volunteers moving displays out of storage to park. Trailers and manpower needed.

Nov. 12 – Lighting competition entries open.

Nov. 16 – Celeb of Lights fundraiser at The Imperial. The Fidgets Improv Comedy team perform. Tickets $26 at the box office.

Nov. 17 – Crane erecting archway and large displays.

Nov. 18 –  Community work day in the park preparing displays.

Nov. 25 – 4 p.m. Opening celebration. Children’s activities. Santa arrives at 7 p.m. followed by lights on and fireworks at 7:45 p.m.

Nov. 27 – Lighting competition entries close.

Dec. 4 – Lighting competition judging.

Dec. 18 – Awards night.

Jan.  1 – Celebration of Lights ends.

Jan. 13 – Volunteers needed to take light displays down.