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Celebration of Lights building on home decorating surge

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Cathy Dobson

The chairman of the 37th annual Celebration of Lights has a guiding principle he repeats often.

“Whatever we do, we want to do very well,” says Dean Holtz.

Holtz holds himself and festival volunteers to a high standard to ensure that when the lights go on Dec. 1 in Centennial that people will love it, he said.

He and the board of directors are aiming to flood the waterfront park with the twinkle of 100,000 colourful lights and about 35 displays.

They need to raise $15,000 to complete the festival this year. That figure is usually closer to $30,000 but the opening night ceremonies with Santa and fireworks has been cancelled again because of COVID-19.

They also need to rally dozens of volunteers and the goodwill of local businesses to get the displays transported to the park and set up.

The huge arches that span Front Street alone require a team of skilled workers and a crane.  The arch has new LED lights this year to shine brighter than ever and add that extra polish Holtz likes to see.

Holtz expects a lot of nominations for this year’s residential lighting competition after a big uptick in participation in 2020.  Residents across the community enthusiastically decorated their homes and made touring the city a true experience, Holtz said.

In fact, this year a number of bus tour companies are booked to bring tourists back to the Celebration of Lights and drive select streets of lit-up homes.

And, once again, resident Scott Williams is creating maps of community driving tours. The maps will be posted on Facebook under Sarnia Lambton Holiday Lights Tour.

After 37 years, the Celebration of Lights requires a lot of maintenance. The popular Neptune’s Castle is under repair and won’t be on display this year but new figures have been added to the family skating display. More spot light are in the park and some trees will have additional light strings, said Holtz.

Last year the board organized a live stream “walk through” of the park to give people who stayed home the experience. It was seen by about 800 viewers, and could be repeated if a sponsor with $2,000 can be found.

“We want to do it only if we use a professional company that can make a quality production,” said the chairman.  He’d also like to live stream a chat with Santa and the residential awards ceremony held at BrownStones restaurant on Dec. 20.

“We are blessed to have so many people and groups donate their time and money to every aspect of the Celebration of Lights,” Holtz said.

The lights will go on nightly from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. until Jan. 30.

That’s weeks longer than usual, a decision made to give a boost to people feeling the stress of the lengthy pandemic.


NOV. 27 – Entries open for residential lights competition. Visit for details.

DEC. 1 – Lights on in Centennial Park

DEC. 12 – Entries close for light competition.

DEC. 20 – Awards night, by invitation

JAN. 30 – Lights off

JAN. 31 – Crane day

FEB. 5 – Community tear down.  Volunteers urgently needed



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