The pandemic caused most residents to wipe their dry-erase calendars clean, and even though Christmas celebrations might be scaled back this year, the City of White Rock Festival of Lights will be anything but.
Last February, the City of White Rock approved a scaled-up version of the Festival of Lights for 2020. Council made the decision Feb. 10, weeks before a global pandemic put a damper on annual celebrations.
However, City of White Rock recreation and culture manager Eric Stepura gave a presentation to council Oct. 19 that confirmed the show is to go on.
The event is to be expanded this year not only in size, but the number of days it will be open to the public.
This year, the event will extend from the white rock to Oxford Street and run from Nov. 28 to Jan. 9. Last year, the event was centralized in Memorial Park and ran for 29 days.
Stepura told council that event organizers are to work with city staff to develop a COVID-19 safety plan. He noted that the city has experience developing similar plans for city recreation centres and arenas.
As expanded as it might be, the Festival of Lights will not have all of the bells and whistles as it did last year.
During last year’s Festival of Lights, the city held a ‘Jingle Bell White Rock’ family event and encouraged people to visit the waterfront for a ceremonial lighting of the lights. That won’t be taking place this year, nor will any type of additional entertainment be provided by the city.
“This is an event where people are to come through the park, stroll around, but no way are we looking at setting up any attractions which would encourage people to gather,” Stepura told council.
This year’s event is to feature three 30-foot tall trees, one in Memorial Park, one near Oxford and one at East Beach.
Councillors seemed content with the plan, but took issue with a proposal from organizers to forfeit two disability parking spaces near Marine Drive and Findlay Street to accommodate a 30-foot tall artificial tree.
After debate about whether the city should create two new temporary parking spots to offset the loss, or to deny the parking-related request all together, councillors voted for the latter.
“I think we have to recognize at every turn that we want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to get down there, enjoy the waterfront whether they want to go to Memorial Park for the Festival of Lights or not,” Mayor Darryl Walker said to council.
The event was approved by council earlier this year as a “Category C” event, meaning the city is a sponsor, not a producer of the event.
Stepura told council that the city’s contribution equals just shy of $9,000 of in-kind support.