$500,000 Christmas lights dazzler planned for Centennial Square

The Downtown Victoria Business Association revealed plans Thursday to stage a $500,000 light extravaganza at Centennial Square over the Christmas season this year.

The DVBA plans to stage Lights of Wonder, a massive light-driven installation featuring trees made of light, glowing building replicas and icons reflecting the region, from orcas and the legislature buildings to a beaming replica of the Gate of Harmonious Interest.

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“This will be a very large light maze and a lit-village activation throughout Centennial Square,” said DVBA executive director Jeff Bray. “It’s really a gift from downtown businesses to the region to invite people back downtown.”

Bray said he’s hoping people will forgive them for talking about Christmas this early, but as the event is in its first year the association is hoping to start generating buzz early.

Bray said it might be difficult for people to picture what the event will look like, but he promises they will be blown away by a forest of illuminated trees, archways and lit installations spread out between Douglas and Government streets.

There will also be background music, live music and refreshments.

“It is a huge project,” said Bray, adding it will be a step up from the usual annual Christmas programming in the square that sometimes included a Ferris wheel, refreshments and music.

He said the DVBA decided to make the change because they wanted something people would respond to.

He said Seattle’s Enchant Christmas drew more than 300,000 people last year. The Seattle display was designed and staged by North Vancouver’s Shine Lighting Group, the company designing and building the Victoria version.

The Shine Lighting Group specializes in the design and implementation of custom lighting installations in public spaces.

It made its name with Enchant Christmas, which features a massive lit maze, staged inside major league baseball stadiums across the U.S.

Bray said the DVBA’s other winter events, like the Ferris wheel and ice rink, came with a hefty cost and operating challenges — neither were much use in the rain, for example.

“This is a much more engaging way to invite the region into downtown through the month of December,” he said.

The $500,000 cost is to be paid over five years. The money comes from the DVBA’s annual budget fuelled by a levy collected from downtown property owners by the city.

Bray said that’s roughly the same amount the organization spent on staging the other events every year, but in this case they keep the installation and can re-use it each year.

It also allows the DVBA to augment and improve the setup and incorporate new ideas once they’ve seen how it plays and how well it draws.

“This will be something special, something people haven’t seen here before,” said Bray, adding he’s not sure what to expect in terms of attendance, though he suggested it will be the kind of thing people are likely to visit over and over.

aduffy@timescolonist.comt

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