Downtown Victoria’s Centennial Square will soon be transformed into a valley of lights after the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) made its largest investment to date.
The Lights of Wonder festival will see the square transformed into a holiday light village, featuring illuminated forests and features, a 40-foot tree, live entertainment including carolers and performers, as well as vendor stands full of hot chocolate, pretzels, bratwurst and more.
The Lights of Wonder will also include a small beer garden, where refreshing drinks or mulled cider can also be purchased.
The ambitious endeavor will cost the DVBA $500,000 over the next five years, a cost which DVBA executive director Jeff Bray says in on par with it’s annual holiday budget of around $130,000. The funding comes from a portion of taxes from downtown businesses paid directly to the DVBA, and not from the City of Victoria.
“The difference is this time we own everything,” Bray said. “The skating rink was $130,000 and all we did was lease it. The ferris wheel was $100,000 and all we did was rent it… with this, we can augment it every year and add different features and elements; this will be something no one has seen before.”
While former holiday features like the rink and the ferris wheel were popular, Bray added that the new Lights of Wonder will add an element of inclusion for everyone.
“We wanted to have a zero-barrier event so everyone could come and enjoy it, and also enjoy the rest of downtown,” Bray said, referring both to physical barriers as well as financial barriers, as the Lights of Wonder will be free to access.
The display elements are being put together by Vancouver-based Shine Lighting, which has also designed the Enchant Seattle Festival, which saw 300,000 attendees in 2018 (even with a $20 entry fee) and the Bright Lights Windsor Festival which saw 100,000 attendees.
“For us, we saw this was a way to really invite the whole region and really the whole Island downtown, and then spend the evening in our shops and restaurants,” Bray said.
The Lights of Wonder will begin to be assembled at the end of November, and will be open to the public from Dec. 13 to 30. The festival will run from 4 to 9 p.m. weekdays, and from 4 to 11 p.m. on weekends.
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