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Ferry ride on Victoria Harbour shows off new light show, including projections on industrial buildings

Victoria Harbour Lights: A Winter Dream is visible to anyone walking along the waterfront, but is geared primarily to guests aboard newly refitted Victoria Harbour Ferry vessels

Victoria’s harbour will have a unique new attraction this ­winter, as the Ralmax Group launches an ­interactive display of light, sound and video animation along the industrial waterfront.

Billed as an attraction that will draw people downtown during the festive season, the Victoria Harbour Lights: A Winter Dream display will be visible to anyone walking along the waterfront, but is geared primarily to guests aboard newly refitted Victoria Harbour Ferry vessels.

The ferries, which have been equipped with heaters and sound systems, will take guests on a 45-minute narrated tour of a child’s story of a winter dream set to music and lights. The attraction launches Dec. 2 and run through December. A preview was rolled out on Wednesday night.

Ralmax Group founder Ian Maxwell, who is spearheading the project and paying the bills, said he and others have been thinking for years about ways of getting people onto the water for a new perspective on the city’s shoreline.

“If you could get that, then Victoria all of a sudden starts making a whole lot more sense — the architecture makes more sense, the stone walls make more sense, the way the streets are laid out starts to make more sense, because they are all laid out to the water,” he said.

Maxwell, who bought Victoria Harbour Ferry in 2020, said he hopes the light display will show what an asset Victoria has in its working harbour. “We have something that is very special, very unique and we should certainly embrace it,” he said.

Maxwell said the substantial cost to bring the project to life — he wouldn’t divulge the numbers — represents an investment in the community. It will bring people downtown and be a signal for others around the harbour and the city that there is room for creative and exciting work on the waterfront, he said.

“We’re hoping this is just a catalyst to show what’s possible,” he said, adding he hopes other creative people in the city come forward with new ideas to add to it.

The attraction was created by Victoria’s Limbic Media, which specializes in dramatic lighting activations to music, and California-based PaintScaping, which does three-dimensional light mapping animations.

Justin Love, founder of Limbic Media, said the industrial waterfront backdrop was both a challenge and an asset. “It’s a really neat space to light up,” he said. “It’s nice to take an area that’s kind of really heavy industry and kind of make it beautiful.”

Love said it’s the first time Limbic has done anything of this scale in Victoria, though the company has done several larger ones around North America.

“What I’m excited most about is from the lighting perspective is just the fact that all of these installations are going to be reflecting off the water and we’re just going to get some really gorgeous reflections and you’re going to be able to see them from all over the city,” he said.

Love said the narrative will be told aboard the ferries and the story will be picked up on shore by the lighting installations, which will then come alive, so even if you’re not on one of the boats, you can enjoy the lighting display from vantage points around the downtown.

Love didn’t want to give too much away about the narrative, but said it’s from the perspective of a young child dreaming on Christmas Eve.

Love said this first year is about keeping it fairly simple, and making sure it all works well, looks good and is a great experience. “But we are pretty ambitious about the kind of things we can build off of this kind of installation,” he said, noting it could even be activated for different seasons.

Barry Hobbis, general manger of Victoria Harbour Ferry, predicted the attraction will be a game changer.

“I’ve been in the tourism industry for 25 years, and I think this is a milestone,” he said. “This could be big enough that it makes a whole shift in terms of how people see Victoria for winter or holiday.”

Hobbis hopes to see 300 people a night hopping in the ferries to take in the show. Reservations started coming on the weekend and he said they already have 100 people lined up for a seat.

Go online to victoriaharbourferry.com to buy tickets.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: letters@timescolonist.com

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