Three enchanting places, two million lights and one legendary waterfall. That’s what’s involved in Niagara Falls’ annual Winter Festival of Lights, the most dazzling holiday tradition in Ontario.
Spearheaded by the Ontario Power Generation, the event is Canada’s largest illumination festival, attraction over 1.5 million visitors and 750 motor coaches each year. Beautiful coloured lights and animated installations are set up throughout the Falls, the Niagara Parkway and the Dufferin Islands, making up an epic 8-km trail of glowing lights.
As the Winter Festival of Lights prepares for its 35th anniversary, organizers envision a future where the seasonal attraction rivals other world-class showcases.
“It is extremely important to continue to grow as a festival, so that we can keep people coming to the destination and staying longer,” said Tina Myers, executive director of the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights.
“We want to make Niagara Falls a four-season destination. The Winter Festival of Lights has always been a huge contributor to bringing people in the off-season, but we want to take it to that next level. We want to make it like the Vivid Sydneys of the world, or the Montreal Lumiere festival, or the Calgary Stampede, where we’re bringing in millions (of people) a week, as opposed to a million over the course of 75 days.”
Marching bands, giant inflatables, colourful floats, jugglers, dancers and community groups helped Niagara Falls celebrate a special Canada Day with its annual downtown parade Saturday.
Residents and visitors, most decked out in red and white, lined the streets and waved Canadian flags as the country celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Tanya Wright, a Canadian citizen who is now a permanent resident in the United States living in Grand Island, N.Y., felt it was important to bring her five-year-old daughter, Hadley, to the OPG Niagara Falls Canada Day Parade.
“She’s inundated with American culture, so I felt it was very important to me that she understands her Canadian roots as well,” said Wright.
Wright’s American husband, Jerod Dahlgren, was impressed by the parade and the people.
“The national pride is a lot less partisan here,” he said.
One of the more recent illuminations added to the Ontario Power Generation Festival of Lights is now dark.
It’s all thanks to an act of vandalism which occurred sometime between midnight on Jan. 15 and 5 p.m. Jan. 16. That’s when an individual or a group caused substantial damage to the Sylma display at Dufferin Islands. The arched lighting display came from France, according to Winter Festival of Lights (WFOL) executive director Tina Myers.
It could be the unseasonably mild temperatures or it could be the added attractions.
Whatever the reason, organizers are pleased that residents and visitors alike are embracing the 33rd annual Ontario Power Generation WInter Festival of Lights.
“People are noticing quite a difference this year in terms of the quality and the consistency of displays throughout the destination,” said John Lohuis, general manager of the Niagara Parks Commission and chairman of the festival’s board of directors.
Visitation is up between 30 and 40 per cent compared to last year at this time.
While the 32nd annual Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights last year was regarded as a transitional year for the event, this year’s promises to build on that and establish a more modern festival.
Lasers, 3D illuminations and projection lighting are the new signatures, including a new “Spirit of Niagara” presentation that will be illuminated on the walls of the Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls.
“Hopefully we’ll create a body of work where the province sees us as a winter destination,” said John Lohuis, general manager of the Niagara Parks Commission and chair of WFOL’s board of directors.
Last night the family went for a brief drive along the Niagara Parkway to check out the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights. It is the first time I’ve seen all of the lights at night. They look excellent. There are a lot more than there used to be.
One strange thing is related to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was some kind of promotion/sponsorship because of the movie, and you can get paper/plastic glasses to wear. When you put them on, the lights look like there are ninja turtles around them. Like this:
I mentioned this to someone and wondered what this had to do with Christmas. The person said that the Disney displays didn’t really have anything to do with Christmas either. Very true.
Dufferin Islands has some new displays. I made a simple animated gif of one display that shows a bird taking off/flying.
Along the hill/escarpment by the Skylon Tower, some lights have been put out that flash intermittently, so it looks like the hill is twinkling.