The Downtown Victoria Business Association’s $500,000 Christmas light extravaganza at Centennial Square is set to open to the public on Dec. 20, after behind-the-scenes wrinkles were ironed out.
“It’s still an early Christmas present,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the DVBA. “This will bring people downtown this Christmas.”
The Lights of Wonder display, which features trees made of light and glowing replicas of local icons ranging from orcas and the legislature buildings to the Gate of Harmonious Interest, was originally scheduled to open Friday.
Bray said the sheer size of the display forced the one-week delay. “There were no real technical issues, per se, but our installation team and engineers identified we needed another piece of heavy equipment to make sure we could put up one of the large pieces, and secure it,” he said.
That had a knock-on effect, as it changed the order and logistics of the installation. “It’s such a big display and it needs to be done in a certain order,” said Bray.
The new official opening time is 4 p.m., Dec. 20 and the event will feature performances from Pace Musical Theatre, while the Soup Kitchen — based in the basement of St. Andrew’s Cathedral — will be on site at a giving booth to collect winter socks and money for those in need. The first 300 people to check in at the DVBA’s information booth that day will get a “random acts of cozy” winter scarf from the Bay Centre.
The event will include installations from Douglas to Government streets, recorded and live music, and refreshments. The display was designed by North Vancouver’s Shine Lighting Group, which specializes in custom lighting installations in public spaces. The company made its name with Enchant Christmas, which features a massive lit maze staged inside major league baseball stadiums across the U.S.
The $500,000 cost of Victoria’s installation is to be paid over five years. The money comes from the DVBA’s annual budget, which is funded by a levy collected from downtown property owners by the city. The DVBA will extend the run of the event to Jan. 4. Originally, it was to have closed Dec. 30.
Bray said the amount is roughly the same as the organization spent staging previous years’ Christmas events, which have included a skating rink and Ferris wheel in Centennial Square, but in this case, they keep the installation and can reuse it each year.
It also allows the DVBA to improve the setup and incorporate new ideas once they’ve seen how it is received.