By JESSICA REECE
It’s that time of year again. Grab your boots and mittens, and get ready to have your senses illuminated.
The CAA Winter Festival of Lights has returned to Niagara Falls celebrating its 30th year.
The festival began in 1983, as a way for the Niagara Falls, Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau (now Niagara Falls Tourism), the City of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Parks Commission and numerous local businesses to unite to create one large event. As Niagara Falls was not known for its wintertime season, the city needed to create something to attract more visitors, and with that, the Winter Festival of Lights was born. It has skyrocketed in popularity ever since.
From what started as a humble beginning of just a few local events, a small number of displays attracting about 250,000 visitors and 35 bus coaches it has grown into over 30 events, more than 120 displays, reaching over one million visitors and bringing in around 1,000 bus coaches.
This year some new features have been added to the regular festivities.
For those planning to attend, they will be able to plan the whole trip from the comfort of their home. General Manager Dino Fazio explained that an iPad friendly app has been created for the festival.
“Everything will be available to you right at your finger tips,” says Fazio.
A few new displays have been added. One of them will feature Santa’s toyshop display.
“It’s a 50-foot-wide, 20-foot-high, display [set up not far from the TD Rink at the Brink] which shows Santa checking his list with his elves and toys coming off a production line,” says Chairman Kevin Harding.
One of the brand new features is the Skylon Tower illumination.
“In the past the tower would have been lit up using strings of real lights and bulbs, which would end up costing large amounts of money and time to create,” says Harding. “They were very heavy and the equipment was becoming very outdated, and took a lot to maintain. And now, thanks to modern lighting technology available we are able to illuminate the tower using projections. No more static displays, it can look like anything.”
By doing that the tower can be filled with colour that changes into patterns and different lighting displays. Harding says they can now make it into more than just a display of lights. They will be able to project cartoons and logos. Harding hopes it can put a new magic into the illumination.
The festival’s grand opening was held on Nov. 3 as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, assisted by members of the James family, from Hamilton, flipped the switch to turn on the three million lights illuminating the park in an enchanted wash of colours.
Stage performances consisted of a march of the toy soldiers, speeches by the festival’s board members, performances by Oh Canada Eh!, and many more. The show concluded with a fantastic fireworks display over the falls.
This year’s festival was enjoyed by everyone, “from the kids to the kids at heart.”
“I think the festival did an awesome job this year,” says Sabrina Dutrizac, a Niagara Falls resident and festival volunteer. “The opening ceremonies were so different compared to previous years. I volunteer every year with it and enjoy being a part of it.”
Harding has high hopes for this year’s festival as well as those to come.
“This year we were able to incorporate the War of 1812, and next year we can make a connection with Remembrance Day. With the 30th anniversary it gives us an opportunity to see why the festival was started in the first place, and bring more and more people here in the winter.
“Attractions used to be boarded up in winter, and now there’s more people than ever. The falls are more beautiful in the winter time anyway, and people are now able to see it for themselves.”
The festival runs to Jan. 31.
For more information visit www.wfol.com.
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